Schuylkill River Trail partners closer to goal of creating a continuous trail from Philadelphia to Schuylkill County

The multi-use Schuylkill River Trail is built mostly on abandoned railroad lines. It passes some historical sites tied to the American Revolution.

View of the river

View of the Schuylkill River from Reading Riverfront Park. (Gabriela Martinez / WITF)

This story originally appeared on WITF.

Schuylkill River means “hidden river” in Dutch.

A partnership between nonprofits and local governments is working to make it not so hidden.

They are collaborating on the construction of a continuous 120-mile trail along the Schuylkill River that will connect Philadelphia and Frackville in Schuylkill County.

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The trail network, which has been expanding since the 1980s, continues to advance year by year.

Schuylkill River Greenways is leading its development and inaugurated the Schuylkill River Trail Auburn Bridge – a restored railroad bridge that crosses the river in Auburn and West Brunswick Township. The restoration of the Auburn Bridge is the second of a three-phase plan to connect Auburn to Hamburg.

The final phase will link the portion that starts at the bridge to the Kernsville Dam near Hamburg.

The Schuylkill River Trail so far has more than 70 miles of trails, including more than 30 miles between southeastern Philadelphia and Parker Ford, Chester County, where the trail breaks off. It picks up again in Pottstwno and continues for 20 miles until reaching Reading.

Tim Fenchel, deputy director of Schuylkill River Greenways, said Montgomery County is closing the gap between Pottstown and Parker Ford – a project likely to be completed around this time next year.

“Once that section is done, it will be one continuous trail from downtown Philadelphia, all the way to the city of Reading, which would be probably over 40 miles or so,” Fenchel said.

About a mile of the Schuylkill River Trail still needs to be completed in Reading, which will be called the “River View” section. Schuylkill River Greenways secured funding for a feasibility study for that project.

Fenchel said SRG will work with public officials and residents to find the best way to complete that section of the trail.

The multi-use Schuylkill River Trail is built mostly on abandoned railroad lines. It passes some historical sites tied to the American Revolution, as well as remnants of once-thriving industrial sites.

Berks, Chester, Montgomery, Schuylkill, and Philadelphia counties each own and maintain its own sections of the trail. Schuylkill River Greenways is completing the trail in Berks and Schuylkill counties, where most of the remaining trail remains to be built. Fenchel said there are still another 40 to 45 miles to complete.

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Signage at the trail
A Schuylkill River Greenways sign in Reading marks a stop on the Pennsylvania Water Trail. (Gabriela Martinez / WITF)

Schuylkill River Greenways hopes to connect people to the river and promote healthy recreation. But Fenchel said there is also an economic component: trails attract tourism and make local downtown communities more accessible to trail users.

“When trails become long distance trails, and they sort of reach a certain mileage point, people start to travel in from throughout the region, or the state or even from all over the country to recreate on the trail,” Fenchel said. “That means people coming and shopping in our stores and using our gas stations and sleeping in hotels.”

According to Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, Pennsylvania has 199 rail trails – the most in the country – and 82 rail trails under construction.

Correction: This story has been corrected to state that Pottstown is part of the Schuylkill River Trail.

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