Grant to give the Philly area a trail system “unlike any other in the country.”

The Circuit Trails of Greater Philadelphia is targeting 800 miles of contiguous trails in Pennsylvania and New Jersey and will add additional trails to the system with a $90,000 grant from the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

It’s the largest trail grant awarded this year by the Conservancy, which also awarded a $20,000 grant to a group working on a portion of the Great American Rail-Trail that will eventually pass through 12 states will run from Washington DC to Washington State and will include a route southwestern Pennsylvania.

The Circuit Trails system currently connects 370 miles of trails such as the Schuylkill River Trail, Schuylkill Banks Boardwalk, Pennypack Trail and Chester Valley Trail.

To be included in the system, a trail must be off-road but paved, open to multi-use, and at least 10 feet wide.

According to organizers, when the 800 miles of trails connect, the greater Philadelphia area will have a statewide trail network connecting the urban, suburban and rural communities of one of the largest metropolitan areas in the United States, the Circuit Trails will become one of the nation’s premier urban trail networks be.”

The Philadelphia grant is managed by the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation, HACE and the New Kensington Community Development Corporation.

The Great American Rail Trail grant will not be used for Pennsylvania’s 172-mile, 95 percent completed portion of the developing 3,700-mile trail.

Instead, it will support trail programming for black women and youth in Columbus, Ohio, to introduce them to trail experiences along a portion of the route.

The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy recently announced 25 $300,000 grants to support organizations working to create a more inclusive trail experience nationwide.

“At RTC, we believe trails have the power to transform communities and create joyful, vibrant public spaces that welcome everyone,” said Liz Thorstensen, RTC’s vice president of trail development.

“These grants are intentional investments in the partners and people working on the ground — in their neighborhoods, states and across the country — to build a community on paths through programs and infrastructure that are inclusive and equitable. Together we are building a future where trails connect everyone to safe places to walk, bike and be active outside – which is fundamental to our well-being.”

She noted that national studies have shown that a lack of physical access or connection to trails in the community, alongside safety concerns, can be barriers to trail use by communities of color.

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The 2022 Trail Grants are part of RTC’s long-standing program, which has distributed more than $2.6 million to 209 organizations since 2008.

RTC is the country’s largest hiking organization with a more than 1 million-strong grassroots community dedicated to building a nation connected by trails and redesigning public spaces to create safe routes for all to walk, with ride a bike and be active outdoors.

Contact Marcus Schneck at [email protected].