By Jack Firneno
Wire Staff Writer
At a meeting in Camden, N.J. earlier this month, the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) announced $4 million in grant money that will be used to create new multi-use trail projects throughout the region. Of that, nearly $500,000 is allocated for two new trails in Bucks County.
The bulk of the Bucks County funds will go toward the design of the Neshaminy Creek Trail, slated to run from Bristol Township through Bensalem, Northampton and Warwick townships and into Doylestown, with some small passages in Langhorne, Middletown, Newtown, Wrightstown and Buckingham townships.
Funds are also earmarked to begin construction on the Route 13 Green Lane Trail Connector. Meeting up with a trail that follows the Delaware and Lehigh Canal trail that runs through Upper Bucks, the Connector will stretch through Bensalem and Bristol as part of the proposed East Coast Greenway, a 2,500-mile trail that will eventually link from the Florida Keys all the way through Maine.
“We were thrilled to receive the award. It gives us the ability to fund a lot of projects that were ready to go but in need of construction funding,” said Chris Linn, manager of the DVRPC’s Office of Environmental Planning. “It’s a real shot in the arm for the trail-building movement.”
The grants were made possible by the William Penn Foundation, which previously awarded a $10 million grant to the DVRPC to begin its regional trail program. Now in its second year, the program is a 20-year visioning to connect more than 750 miles of multi-use trails for bicyclists, walkers and joggers throughout southeastern Pennsylvania.
“Any trail is great, but when they dead-end, they have limited function — you have to just turn around,” explained Linn. “Being able to go from one to the next dramatically improves people’s ability to use the system for transportation.”
But the trails do much more than allow people to get from Point A to Point B without the use of a car, Linn added. Along with recreational use, the trails can create opportunities for economic development through the creation of construction jobs and also increase the property values of homes and businesses with easy access to trails.
They also give users a chance to reconnect with nature. “More trails means increased access to parks, open space and our river and streams,” said Linn.
This award from the William Penn Foundation represents the third round of grants that the DVRPC has awarded to various trail design and construction projects under its regional trail program. Of the 750 miles of existing and proposed trails, 275 miles are completed and 40 are being developed. Along with private grants from places like the William Penn Foundation, the DVRPC also supports the trail program through internal channels like the Transportation Alternative Program, which is awarded for community-based projects that provide non-vehicular methods of transportation.
“We’re looking to have a specific round of funding for trails through the Transportation Alternative Program in 2014,” said Linn.