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Political will speeds Perkiomen Trail completion

The Perkiomen Trail was acquired, designed and constructed in just three and one-half years.

From Montgomery County, Pennsylvania

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The Montgomery County Commissioners held a Dedication Ceremony for the recently completed 22-mile Perkiomen Trail at Green Lane Park at 10 a.m. on Nov. 22nd. The Schwenksville Branch of Ambler Savings Bank was the official sponsor of the Trail celebration.

The Perkiomen Trail was acquired, designed and constructed in just three and one-half years, the fastest of any trail project in the state. "Time was as important as dollars spent," said Commissioner Chairman Michael D. Marino, who spearheaded the effort to complete the Trail. "By getting 200,000 to 300,000 people per year enjoying the Trail for the five to 10 years it would have taken us to do the job with Federal money, we accomplished a lot," Marino said.

"It was decided that no federal funding would be used for the main stem of the Trail project, since
federal and DOT requirements would have caused years of delay on the preliminary design, acquisition and construction."

The trail cost $9.7 million to build. Federal, state and other governmental programs will reimburse the County for nearly $2 million of the cost. The County could have used federal funds to pay for the entire trail, but that would have taken 12 years and cost twice as much, said Leo Bagley, senior transportation planner for the County.

A BRIEF HISTORY
The Perkiomen Trail was once the bed of the Reading Railroad's Perkiomen Branch. In 1978 the County purchased the abandoned rail corridor for a trail. Until 1996 various attempts to develop the Trail failed because of adjacent landowner objections and claims of reversions. In 1996 the County entered litigation against the adjacent landowners for the right to use the corridor for a trail. However, the court found that the corridor had reverted to 157 different landowners.

In 1999 a new slate of County Commissioners took office and Chairman Marino vigorously supported the Trail project. His command: complete the Trail before the end of his term of office in 2003. With the support of his fellow Commissioners and the help of staff and volunteers, he is right on schedule. When a court appeal was completed in 1999, the Commissioners chose to forego continued litigation in order to move ahead with acquisition of the Trail.

The County reassembled the corridor by purchasing land or easements from 157 landowners of 215 parcels. Where necessary, condemnation was used to acquire property. The choice was made that the Trail would be done as a "design/build" project, so that sections would be opened as soon as right of way and design was completed. Construction work was done by personnel of the County Roads and Bridges and Parks Departments.

It was also decided that no federal funding would be used for the main stem of the Trail project, since federal and DOT requirements would have caused years of delay on the preliminary design, acquisition and construction. The entire Trail will be opened to the public on November 22, 2003. Additions and enhancements to the Trail are already in the works with the help of $2M in Federal, state and private money. By getting the Trail installed in such a short period of time has created enormous support for the Trail and for the future of the County trail plan.

The Perkiomen Trail is unique for the way it seamlessly connects remote untouched natural areas and parks to busy downtown shopping centers and commercial districts. It ties in with the existing Schuylkill River Trail, giving Montgomery County and the region a 43-mile long trail, linking downtown Philadelphia to Valley Forge National Historical Park, the Audubon National Historical Landmark site, three County parks and the Pennypacker Mills County historic site (home of Pennsylvania Govenor Samuel Pennypacker). It passes through ten Montgomery County municipalities. "We have made a gem of a trail that passes through the heart of Montgomery County," Marino said. "Putting this trail in now gives the residents of Montgomery County and the Philadelphia region a trail that is theirs to enjoy and use every day and for generations to come."

The Perkiomen Trail is only the next step of the County-wide trail network. The County has plans for the trail network to become a "new County park". Including the completed Perkiomen Trail and Schuylkill River Trails, over 160 miles of trails are planned, with nearly 60 miles already in the planning or design stages. With a new open space preservation and trail funding initiative proposed in 2004, Montgomery County is poised to build upon its role as the leader in Trail development for the 21st century in the Philadelphia region.

About Ambler Savings
Ambler Savings is a $200 million bank with two retail branches and ATMs in Schwenksville and Ambler, PA. The two locations have a total of 38 employees. The Schwenksville branch located at Main and Centennial Streets, has been serving the Perkiomen Valley for nearly 30 years. A third branch is scheduled to open in Limerick in 2004. For more information on Ambler Savings, call 215/646-8400 or visit them on the web at www.amblersav.com. Member FDIC, Equal Housing Lender, Equal Opportunity Lender and Member Federal Home Loan Bank System.

November 2003

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