$18M grant for Circuit Trails project will help connect cyclists in Montco to the Morris Arboretum

Montgomery County is investing in trails to connect the region. (Montgomery County)

Montgomery County is investing in trails to connect the region. (Montgomery County)

New grant funding, coming in large part from Montgomery County, could help bicyclists on Philadelphia’s Forbidden Drive Trail reach another popular city landmark — Morris Arboretum.

About $18 million in funding was recently approved for regional bicycle and pedestrian trail expansion projects, the bulk of which came from the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners.

A small portion of this funding will help pay for a feasibility study of new bike lanes and a trailway along the Montco portion of Northwestern Avenue to link the University of Pennsylvania-run arboretum to Forbidden Drive, which follows Wissahickon Creek.

A number of other suburban projects will also benefit from the new trail funding, including the completion of a four-mile phase of the Chester Valley Trail. That segment would connect the Schuylkill River Trail, which originates in Philadelphia, to existing suburban trails in the vicinity of King of Prussia.

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These projects are all part of a larger strategy to create a continuous 800-mile network of regional trails, known as the Circuit Trails of Greater Philadelphia. Barry Seymour, director of the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, has helped coordinate these efforts.

“Folks want to use trails. They’re out there, they’re asking for them. So wherever we can find a connection, we’re trying to find a way to build them,” Seymour said. “But there are dozens and dozens of partners. While it may seem simple, it’s actually incredibly complex.”

This funding round will also cover several additional miles for the Cross County and Pennypack trails, design costs for a new portion of the Schuylkill River Trail, a “trail hub” in Norristown, and a feasibility study for a cross-county trail from Germantown Pike to Joshua Road.

Groups like the DVRPC and the William Penn Foundation have helped assemble seed money with the aim of encouraging buy-in from municipal or county stakeholders. Seymour said the most recent funding round was an example of that effort paying off.

According to Seymour, about 400 miles of trail had been completed so far or are currently under construction. The region is on track to exceed 500 miles by 2025.

“Our goal is to have trails within a mile or two of everyone in the region,” Seymour said.

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