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New Year's resolution: Connecting the city and its suburbs with a trail

As we stare at a new year, it looks like one of the hottest trends in recreation and transportation will continue. Yes, we're talking about a new trail. Specifically, trail advocates are looking at a labyrinth of rights-of-way through Northwest Philadelphia and southeastern Montgomery County as fertile ground for bicyclists and pedestrians. The Friends of the Cresheim Trail, which is the advocacy group behind this trail, is planning a big year.

The proposed trail begins in Mount Airy, runs along the border of Mount Airy and Chestnut Hill, and then meanders through Springfield, Cheltenham, and Whitemarsh Townships in Montgomery County, explains Susan Dannenberg, the chair of the Friends of Cresheim Trail. One of the primary hurdles to sculpting the trail is that different proposed segments are currently owned by varying entities. For example, Dannenberg confirms that the desired beginning of the trail in Mount Airy is owned by Fairmount Park, while PECO Energy has control of other parts of the route.

Dannenberg prognosticates that the eight-mile Cresheim Trail will get built one mile at a time. "Trails take a long time to get built," recognizes Dannenberg. She wants to see the Mount Airy segment go into operation first, which begins at the intersection of Allens Lane and Lincoln Drive, near the Allen Lane Train Station. Next, Dannenberg wants to see the portion along well-traveled Cresheim Valley Drive. This would provide access to Germantown Ave., the incoming Chestnut Hill Quaker meetinghouse, and the suburbs.

In order to accomplish anything, the Friends of Cresheim Trail has its work cut out for itself. Dannenberg hopes to apply for tax-exempt non-profit status this year, at which point they can start applying for grants. She would also like to throw house parties at residences near the proposed trail, which would be aimed at offsetting skepticism from trail neighbors. "There are a couple of places where people are concerned about a trail near their houses," admits Dannenberg. Much of the criticism has come from residents of Springfield and Cheltenham Townships.

On the other side of the coin, the proposed trail has an impressive array of supporters. Dannenberg says that the Chestnut Hill Rotary Club and Mt. Airy USA have been vocal supporters in the city. Local Rotarians went so far as to hold an art competition to raise money for the Cresheim Trail. Yet, the trail also has considerable support among Montgomery County institutions, including Cheltenham Township, the Springfield Township Board of Commissioners, and the School District of Springfield Township, which the trail would run through.   

Source: Susan Dannenberg, Friends of Cresheim Trail
Writer: Andy Sharpe
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