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More miles will be added to Northeastern Pennsylvania to Philadelphia connection

  • By Kat Bolus/ WVIA
The Schuylkill River Trail in St. Clair.

 Kat Bolus / WVIA

The Schuylkill River Trail in St. Clair.

Schuylkill County and Philadelphia have always been connected by a meandering natural resource.

“The coal industry was supported by the railroads. And all of that went up the river corridor,” said said Julie Hurle, trails director for the Schuylkill River Greenways National Heritage Area. “You can still see … the history of the coal moving from these hills of Schuylkill County down into Philadelphia.”

The National Heritage Area is adding more miles to its Schuylkill River Trail (SRT) to preserve that shared history and contribute to Pennsylvania’s recreation revolution, she said. The nonprofit received an over $1 million grant from PennDOT to build 4.6 miles of its planned 120-mile trail from Frackville to Philadelphia; 82 miles are currently complete.

“The trail is the number one project that we do to move our mission forward to connect people to the Schuylkill River,” she said.

The national heritage area preserves the history of the Schuylkill River watershed. It covers the counties the 135-mile river runs through — Schuylkill, Berks, Chester, Montgomery and Philadelphia.

The federal funding through PennDOT will create a trail beginning in St. Clair in the area where the state agency relocated the Mount Carbon Bowstring Truss Bridge. The bridge was built in the late 1880s and is part of the trail. It will end in State Game Lands 326.

Greenways is also working on a 2-mile stretch to the eventual northernmost start of the trail in Frackville, also near the river’s headwaters.

Hurle said the top 6.6 miles in Northeastern Pennsylvania is a really exciting section.

“It meets so many of our goals, one of which, of course, is economic development, by connecting the two boroughs to one another and to the communities in between them,” she said. “We’re providing transportation, we’re providing recreation, of course, but mainly we’re providing an opportunity for people to increase economic development.”

Greenways also supports getting people onto the river and infrastructure for the water trail.

“We build kayak launches, we build parking lots, we build river access points for fishing and boating,” she said.

They’re also working with Schuylkill Haven Borough to make improvements to the boat ramp at Schuylkill Haven Island Park.

They’re creating better circulation for cars to drop off boats and a new ramp for fishing or launching kayaks.

Hurle said that the project should be completed in the next month.

Ultimately the Schuylkill River Heritage Area tells the story of the river of revolutions, she said.

The river is associated with both the American Revolution and the Industrial Revolution. It’s also one of the first areas to be part of a national cleanup for clean water, said Hurle.

“The Schuylkill River … historically was a mess. It was full of coal, clogged with coal, dust and industrial waste, and it was one of the very first large scale projects to clean that up,” said Hurle.

Schuylkill River Greenways National Heritage Area still needs $900,000 to complete the 4.6 miles, said Hurle, who added 2026 would be the earliest for the project to be finished. The upper two miles they are in the early stages of development.

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