Concord looking to expand trail network

Concord Township is looking for ways to expand its trail network and part of the consideration includes Rails-to-Trails, PECO easements and becoming part of a national trail network.

During an April 13 Greenways and Open Space Network Committee meeting, landscape architect Marc Morfei, from Pennoni Associates and a township resident, presented the public with a broad overview of what the committee is looking to do.

The idea is to connect the already existing trails with each other, Morfei said, and to have a trail network connecting all public and historic properties, including recreational areas, schools, churches and shopping centers, including the Wegmans currently under construction.

By offering people a way to use trails to and from those types of locations, trails go “from being recreation to transportation.”

“People can walk out their door, get on a bike and be connected to whole system,” Morfei said. “You could walk or ride your bike and go to the store. That’s something we don’t naturally think of because we don’t really have an opportunity to do that.”

In another example, Morfei suggested having a connecting link between the trails at the township facility on Thornton Road with the trails at Newlin Grist Mill on Cheyney Road.

Once that’s accomplished, the network could grow by using the old Octorara Rail line to build trails moving east and west. Fully built, that trail could go from Chester, through Chester Heights, and into Concord Township. It could also be extended into Chadds Ford and beyond.

PECO easements could also be used to connect Garnet Valley Woods, Concord Woods, Clayton Park and Fox Hill Farm, he said.

Morfei added that trails in Concord could also become part of a 3,000-mile national trail running from Maine to Florida, the East Coast Greenway Project. He said that system is 20 percent completed.

Some residents weren’t pleased with what they were hearing.

One resident said that while property values do rise for properties near trails, they go down for properties that abut trails because people are uncomfortable with strangers walking along their property lines.

Another resident said she has safety concerns.

“Do I want my son to have easy access to a 3,000-mile long trail? No. Do I want people from a high crime area like Chester walking by my yard? No,” she said.

Township engineer Nate Cline said not all the ideas being looked at will necessarily happen, and township Supervisor Kevin O’Donoghue said the township’s first obligation would be to protect the health and wellbeing of residents.

Supervisor John Gillespie echoed O’Donoghue. “Public safety is our number one concern for our community,” Gillespie said.

Speaking favorably about the system was Garnet Valley School District Superintendent Marc Bertrando, who said the trail system could enhance student safety. He said he becomes uncomfortable when he sees students, such as cross-country runners, running along the side of a road.

“We’re on board with this,” Bertrando said.

Throughout the meeting, Morfei said no decisions have yet been made because the township was only in the very beginning of the planning stage. One of the primary reasons for the meeting was to present initial ideas and to get feedback from residents.

The township has already received a number of grants for feasibility studies.

Gillespie said the committee would have more meetings to adjust the current plan, present it again later in the year when it’s almost final, and then do the study. He said that could happen later this summer.

On the heels of that, he said, the rails-to-trails option would be developed. The township has already received a grant with Chester Heights for that feasibility study.

(Photo: Landscape architect Marc Morfei, standing at left, gives a PowerPoint presentation on regional trails and how Concord Township's trails can be be expanded.)

About Rich Schwartzman

Rich Schwartzman has been reporting on events in the greater Chadds Ford area since September 2001 when he became the founding editor of The Chadds Ford Post. In April 2009 he became managing editor of ChaddsFordLive. He is also an award-winning photographer.



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