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Schuylkill River National and State Heritage Area worked with Brentwood Industries to acquire and construct a 32-car parking facility in the city of Reading, PA. The Trail is a planned, 130-mile regional facility between Pottsville and Philadelphia in southeastern Pennsylvania.
In 1998, Brentwood Industries approached Schuylkill River Greenway Association about the possibility of acquiring a piece of the Thun Trail right-of-way for parking to serve their operations, located on Route 10 (Morgantown Road). That conversation opened the door to a series of actions over the next several years during which time Brentwood acquired additional land totaling nearly 50 acres to develop an industrial park and to construct a new plant twice the site the size of their facility.
Brentwood Industries worked with Schuylkill River Greenway
Association to construct a new trailhead
The partnership to permit and construct the trailhead was financed and led by Brentwood Industries, a company that manufactures a variety of plastic-based products, including wheelbarrows, alloys, laminated plastics, cooling towers, wastewater treatment systems, stormwater treatment systems, and specialty thermoform and molding services. The company, founded in 1965, has manufacturing facilities in Arizona, Arkansas, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.
The William Penn Foundation provided funding for the trailhead signs. The Foundation was created in 1945 to improve the quality of life in the Greater Philadelphia region through efforts that foster rich cultural expression, strengthen children’s futures, and deepen connections to nature and community.
The Schuylkill River National and State Heritage Area, managed by the Schuylkill River Greenway Association, is the Trail sponsor and owner. It is a non-profit organization that uses conservation, education, recreation, tourism, and cultural and historic preservation as tools to promote community revitalization and economic development. The Heritage Area led construction of 20 trail miles in Berks and Schuylkill Counties and maintains these trails through dedicated volunteer network.
Other organizations, involved with reviews and approvals, included the Berks County Conservation District, the City of Reading, and the PA Department of Transportation.
The William Penn Foundation provided funding for the trailhead signs.
Schuylkill River Greenway Association (SRGA) agreed to transfer rights of an approximate ½ acre tract of land, and allow Brentwood access across other SRGA property, in exchange for Brentwood Industries agreement to construct a new trailhead parking lot. The lot, accessed from Brentwood Drive, was paved, curbed, lighted and fully landscaped at Brentwood’s expense. It was dedicated to public use in a ceremony conducted November 14, 2007. In addition, Brentwood Industries restored a 9-acre industrial brownfield, and constructed approximately 800 feet of relocated Schuylkill River Trail. In true partnership fashion, the advantages of the arrangement were beneficial to all parties and the Schuylkill River Trail.
Trail user safety was greatly enhanced by installing street, parking area and trail improvements that were specifically designed to control the interaction of pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles. The access road was improved and visibility into the site was increased, enhancing early morning and late afternoon trail user safety. Access was also controlled with the installation of a full 130-foot long curb to protect trail users as well as drivers on nearby Morgantown Road.
Signs identifying the Brentwood Trailhead and providing information about the Schuylkill River Trail and the Schuylkill River Heritage Area have been installed, along with distance markers, using standards developed by SRGA. Such signs are being placed along the entire trail, making it easier to access at points and more user-friendly throughout. The sign system at the Brentwood Trailhead includes a kiosk, place name sign, and directional signs.
The aesthetics of the area were also improved. Curbing and landscaping were installed the full length of SRGA’s frontage on Morgantown Road as well as along Brentwood Drive, improving the trailhead’s appearance immeasurably. And, the continual erosion of dirt and gravel onto Morgantown Road (and from there into the Schuylkill River) was totally eliminated. The landscaping consisted of creating a lawn where debris was once stored and by planting new canopy trees around the parking area together with Brentwood Drive’s other entryway feature improvements. To retain the site’s integrity, Brentwood recorded a permanent easement over the property situated between the Thun Trail and US 422 to protect the property’s woodland character.
The advantages to Brentwood consist of their ability to control property in close proximity to current operations and expand operations with minimal disruption of business. A side benefit was the Schuylkill River Trail itself that provided off-road, non-vehicular commuter access as well as health and recreational benefits to Brentwood employees.
For the community, a manufacturing plant was able to expand basic sector employment, the kind of employment that generates secondary employment in the service sector of the local economy. The property, now back on the tax roles, was vacant for decades, producing little or no taxes to support the City of Reading, the Reading School District and Berks County. The Brentwood project provides an excellent example of wise in-town development that takes advantage of existing community infrastructure to measurably reduce what we have come to know as sprawl. The project also closed a gap in Reading’s trail section, making it possible to travel uninterrupted form the center of Reading 6.75 miles to the village of Gibraltar.
Brentwood Industries executives weighed their decisions in terms of how the public interest would best be served. They were the ideal partner by always being open to suggestion and they were quick to help resolve unanticipated problems that arose during the complicated land development approval and construction processes.