Montgomery County gives update on Pennypack Trail extension

Matt Schickling, the Wire

The Pennypack Trail extension unofficially opened when the weather broke, but the official grand opening is still pending and more improvements may be forthcoming.

The Huntingdon Valley Library hosted a meeting on May 7 to give an update on the status of the project. County employees working directly with the project spoke about where the project is at and where it is going.

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“This is something this area really needed,” Jill Blumhardt, community liaison for the trail project, said. “We were lacking in our trail network but we had the lion’s share of people.”

The current trail is just under 2.5 miles. Recently, at the newly constructed trailhead at Welsh and Terwood roads, the county implemented a bike share station.

There are six bikes available for rent through the Zagster mobile application. Users can enter the bike’s identification number into the app and tap “start ride”. A code will be provided to unlock the box that holds a key for the u-lock attached to the bike at the station. When finished riding, users return the bike to the station, lock the bike up and close the lock box. To finalize the ride, go to the app and tap “end ride”.

For a limited time, the first hour of renting is free and each subsequent hour costs $5.

Much of the trail, which begins on the south end with a 145-foot pedestrian bridge over the Pennypack Creek, runs through Lorimer Park. Through last spring and fall, that portion was completed up to the trailhead at Welsh and Terwood roads.

There, along with the bike share station, a 44-car parking lot was constructed to make accessing the trail more convenient.

“Being able to get out and experience our county park system, our trails and our local park system is really important to the basic health of our community,” said Jody Holton, a director of the county planning department. “The quality of life in the county is improved by having a great trail system.”

According to Holton, there are 60 miles of trails already constructed throughout the county and planners have created a “vision map” that lays out about 220 miles of trails the county could seek to implement if the funds become available.

Through this spring and fall, the county will be working to extend the trail from the Welsh Road parking lot up to Byberry Road. The plans for this portion include three bridges and additional parking at Byberry Road.

The county also planned a third phase, which will connect the Byberry Road portion to County Line Road and the border of Bucks County. Funds haven’t yet been secured for this phase, but plans have been outlined and grant applications are pending.

This trail concept would connect Upper Moreland, Lower Moreland, Bryn Athyn and Abington through to Rockledge.

Many of these trails are being built on former railroad lines. Larry Eastwood Jr., a railroad historian, talked about the history that took place in this area, like the two-train collision that caused 27 deaths and 70 injuries in Bryn Athyn the winter of 1921.

Eastwood, along with workers from the Pennypack Ecological Restoration Trust, host a walk each year to the crash site. He explains the history of the railroads, the crash and its implications, while walking to the crash site. The event takes place on the first Saturday of December each year, and this year that date happens to be on the anniversary of the crash. It’s a sad story, but there’s an upside.

“When we walk on the trails this year, it will be a lot easier,” Eastwood said.

For more information on the Pennypack Trail Extension, visit www.montcopa.org.