Philadelphia Spring Trail Preview: 8 New Places to Explore


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Philadelphians looking for scenic places to walk, run or bike in the great outdoors are in luck: warm weather is about to be here – I accept no responsibility for another cold snap if I jinx it saying that – and the city has several new or renovated trails to explore.

In addition to the paths that have been opened or improved over the past year, there are a few more that are nearing completion or have plans for construction.

Whether you’re looking to stroll through Fairmount Park or cycle along one of the rivers, here’s a look at new developments in Philly’s trail scene.

Philadelphia Parks and Recreation has repaved and restored the MLK Drive trail in West Fairmount Park, which snakes along the west side of the Schuylkill around the Fairmount Fish Ladder to the East Falls Bridge.

The project involved widening the 4-mile, over 50-year-old trail, as well as clearing dead trees and adding new signage and ground markings. There is also new lighting and ADA accessible ramps.

Chronology: Construction began in January 2021 and was completed last summer, according to Parks & Rec spokeswoman Maita Soukup.

Ellen C Miller for Parks and Recreation

A $4.8 million project extended the Schuylkill Banks on the west side of the river from the 56th Street Square around 61st Street.

This completed last falland understand 1.6 hectares of greenwaya gazebo with city and river views, a riverside platform, lighting for nighttime use, and 125 newly planted trees.

The project is part of a larger Schuylkill River Development Corporation project that will extend the trail to the end at Passyunk Avenue. The plan is to eventually create a waterfront park near the Passyunk Avenue Bridge.

Chronology: The Bartram’s Garden to 61st trail segment opened in November 2021, so it’s waiting for you in warm weather. A feasibility study for the segment from 61st to Passyunk is still ongoing, according to the SRDC website.

The grand opening of the 61st Street Mile in November 2021
Mark Henninger / Imagic Digital

The Delaware River Trail, a 5.5 mile path run along the waterfront from Allegheny Avenue in the north to Oregon Avenue in the south, includes a two-way protected bike path and a separate sidewalk for runners and walkers in some locations.

Part of the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation Central Delaware Master Planthe trail has been in the works for over a decade and will finally celebrate its completion this spring.

The trail was designed to follow the shoreline, which means that in some places it follows the street, and in some places it diverges from the roadway to hug the water. There are picnic tables and benches along it, and there are also solar panels that help power the 120 streetlights along the path.

Chronology: Work on the full trail is “almost complete,” according to DWRC spokesperson Nicole Paloux, and a grand opening and dedication is scheduled for April 29.

the North and south segments of the trail have been completed since 2019. The central portion – from Spring Garden to Washington Avenue – was due for completion in late 2021, but officials told Billy Penn in October that unexpected structural and utility issues surfaced and delayed things .

Benches with solar panels power lights along parts of the new Delaware River Trail
Mark Henninger / Imagic Digital

Loopback between the Belmont plateau and the Chamounix streamthe versatile, soft-surfaced Trolley Trail follows the old path of the Fairmount Park Trolley, which operated through the first half of the 20th century.

The tramway route disappeared in the 1940s, and its tracks, bridges and cables were auctioned. The Fairmount Parks Conservancy is working on “reimagine[ing] the site as a scenic interpretive trail” in the western part of the park, where 14 of the 16 tram stops were located. The project is part of a 2014 master plan to add more amenities to Fairmount Park.

The Trolley Trail is designed for use by cyclists, pedestrians, runners and horse riders.

Chronology: The loop is complete and ready to use, according to conservation spokesperson Cari Feiler Bender. Some adjustments are still in progress for trail widths, surfaces and stormwater drainage. Signage still needs to be inserted and some starting points are still in development. The official inauguration is scheduled for mid-September.

The route of the Chamounix trolley
Albert Yee for Fairmount Park Conservancy

The Manayunk Bridge Trail, which connects Philadelphia and Lower Merion Townshipwill have longer hours once a lighting project led by Parks & Rec comes to an end.

A $1.5 million improvement project, funded by the city and PennDOT, was added new pedestrian lights and security cameras since October. The bridge is closed at night at this time, but once the project is complete, there will be public access 24/7, year-round.

Chronology: Parks & Rec expects to complete the project in late spring or early summer, according to the spox department Soukup. Until then, the bridge is open daily from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Flickr Creative Commons/Michael Stokes

Wissahickon Valley Park’s four bike bridges temporarily closed in March 2021, but will be operational again in the coming months, looking better than before.

The bridges closed last spring for “complete restoration and resurfacing” after 40 years of use, according to Parks & Rec. The recently reopened trail bridges — which cost $1.2 million to upgrade — will have non-slip coatings.

Chronology: The restoration is expected to be completed in late spring or early summer, according to department spokesman Soukup. The bridges will remain closed until then.

The Fairmount Parks Conservancy is investing $145,000 in Boxers Trail at East Fairmount Park in order to better preserve it for future use.

Erosion has impacted ‘key sections’ of the trail – named after Joe Frazier used it as a jogging route – so the reserve will work to improve grading and drainage . The upgrades will improve the trail’s overall condition, make it less likely to wash out and allow it to dry out faster after rainstorms, Conservancy spokesman Bender said.

Chronology: The improvements will take place this summer. No extended shutdowns are planned, although trail work may result in occasional “critical maintenance” closures on weekdays, per Bender. Information about temporary closures should be listed on Fairmount Park Conservancy social media accounts.

Boxers Trail organizes a 5k charity run every year
Courtesy of Philadelphia Parks and Recreation

This one’s a bit further out, but good to know: Delaware’s waterfront is set to get a new 10-acre trail on the site of a former concrete factory in Bridesburg.

The $10 million park is designed to connect with the existing Port Richmond Trail / Delaware Ave extension to the south and possibly the existing K&T Trail to the north (which is planned for a future extension of its own). It’s part of a larger effort to create an 11-mile stretch of parks and trails along the Delaware in northeast Philadelphia.

Phase 1 of the project, which the Riverfront North Partnership said fundraising completed for 2020includes trail construction, large lawn, native meadow, restrooms and parking.

Chronology: The inauguration of phase 1 should take place this year. The opening to the public is scheduled for 2023.

A rendering of the new park at the trailhead
Courtesy of Riverfront North Partnership

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