This year’s early spring means that the emerging path of the new Cresheim Trail, a collaborative project administered by the group Friends of the Cresheim Trail, is already drenched in leafy green. Several local groups have supported the project since the initiative began back in 2005, including the Chestnut Hill Rotary Club, which was instrumental to the project’s start, and the Friends of the Wissahickon (FOW).
About fifteen volunteers, including many FOW and Rotary Club members, joined Cresheim Trail project leader Susan Dannenberg on Saturday for a crisp, sunny day of claiming a stretch of new trail from about fifty years of forest. Ultimately, the slated trail will create an eight-mile stretch of foot-and-bike friendly terrain between Cheltenham and the Wissahickon.
After meeting for some coffee and Danish at the juncture of Allens Lane and Lincoln drive, a troop of workers carrying pruners and loppers headed into the patch of woods within the triangular area between Lincoln Drive, Cresheim Road, and Emlen Street.
“You will encounter poison ivy whether you know it or not,” Dannenberg warned her hardy workers. “No Jersey Devil, though,” she joked.
The day’s goal was to cut a narrow swath through the woods, marked by small pink flags in the ground: an initial clearing for what will eventually be a pleasant five-minute walk in the woods from the Allens Lane/Lincoln Drive intersection to the intersection of Cresheim Road and Emlen Street. Once that piece of the trail is finished, pedestrian visitors to Cresheim Valley Park will no longer have to walk along Cresheim Road.
FOW Board member David Dannenberg (Susan Dannenberg’s husband) and Christian Mongrain of the Chestnut Hill Rotary Club led the charge into the greenery. With some frustration, David estimated that in the fifty years since a paved right-of-way to Lincoln Drive existed in this patch of woods, over 1,000 tons of old asphalt, bricks and other material have been dumped there.
The existing rocky path winds between large trees and humped islands of asphalt chunks. Fresh clumps of maple leaves and rafts of nascent honeysuckle blooms overhang the path. The avid birdsong makes the nearby wooden fencing of neighboring properties seem much farther away than it is.
Volunteers crunched through withered oak leaves, brittle pine needles and an encroaching carpet of the season’s first weeds. As participants got to work clearing the brush that blocked the trail route, the raw, earthy fragrance of freshly snapped green wood filled the air.
The crew worked their way down the steep embankment and along a winding course to emerge on the old sidewalk of Emlen Street – another target of their clippers.
Susan arrived with a van full of hefty shovels and hoes, and David instructed volunteers on reclaiming the long-buried sidewalk from the woods. “It’s been twenty or thirty years since this was clear,” he said.
In that sense, this stretch of the project is as much a safety initiative as a recreational one, keeping people out of the speedy, curving roadway, where they often stroll for lack of a usable sidewalk.
“This is something the Friends of the Wissahickon really wanted to do,” Susan said. “A lot of people want to walk around here, and it’s not easy to do.”
The Friends of the Cresheim Trail and their partners will be hosting a “Love Your Park Workday” at 10am on May 12th. Participants should meet at the corner of Allens Lane and Lincoln Drive. Coffee, lunch, gloves and tools will be provided. Volunteers will help pick up trash, cut vines, and continue working on the emerging trail.