Cen­ter un­veils River Gate­way

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ROXBOROUGH >> The Schuylkill Cen­ter for En­vi­ron­men­tal Ed­u­ca­tion un­veiled its new con­nec­tion to the Schuylkill River Trail last Thurs­day, Sept. 27.

The River Trail Gate­way merges two trail sys­tems, pro­vid­ing a sec­ond en­trance to the cen­ter and in­creas­ing pub­lic ac­cess while invit­ing vis­i­tors to rest, hike and learn through in­ter­pre­tive sig­nage, stream over­looks, en­hanced pro­gram­ming and ed­u­ca­tional out­reach.

Pre­vi­ously, most trail users were un­aware of the cen­ter’s prox­im­ity, due to a chain-link fence and il­leg­i­ble sig­nage. With a clear path­way and invit­ing trail mark­ers, vis­i­tors can now hike up to the cen­ter from the River Trail, ex­plore the paths and read about na­tive plants and wa­ter­shed his­tory.

Kay Sykora, who founded the Manayunk De­vel­op­ment Corpo. and cham­pi­oned the Schuylkill River Trail through Manayunk and Roxborough; Sarah Clarke Stu­art, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Bi­cy­cle Coali­tion of Greater Philadel­phia and chair of the Cir­cuit’s steer­ing com­mit­tee; An­drew John­son of the William Penn Foun­da­tion; Ti­mothy Szuhaj, Schuylkill Cen­ter board pres­i­dent; and Mike Weil­bacher, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Schuylkill Cen­ter for En­vi­ron­men­tal Ed­u­ca­tion, all spoke at the event.

The Schuylkill River Trail is part of a larger net­work of multi-use trails in the Greater Philadel­phia re­gion called the Cir­cuit Trails.

Clarke Stu­art said that this was a great meet­ing of two in­sti­tu­tions, not­ing the River Trail Gate­way as a ma­jor out­post along the Cir­cuit’s 800-mile net­work.

“The Schuylkill Cen­ter is a well-known pres­ence in the re­gion,” John­son said, “and a pi­o­neer in en­vi­ron­men­tal ed­u­ca­tion. Its lo­ca­tion ad­ja­cent to, but high above, the heav­ily used Schuylkill River Trail pre­sented an enor­mous — if chal­leng­ing — op­por­tu­nity to reach hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple who use the trail ev­ery year for re­cre­ation and com­mut­ing. By cre­atively es­tab­lish­ing a di­rect phys­i­cal link to the trail, the cen­ter will be able to con­nect with thou­sands of peo­ple on the trail to in­crease their aware­ness of the Schuylkill River and its im­por­tant role in the Delaware River wa­ter­shed.”

The stretch of River Trail abut­ting the Schuylkill Cen­ter is now land­scaped with na­tive plants, ben­e­fi­cial to the en­vi­ron­ment and lo­cal wildlife. The land­scap­ing in­cludes flora dis­play­ing shades of red at vary­ing sea­sons as part of the cen­ter’s “Rib­bon of Red” ini­tia­tive. Ref­er­enc­ing the col­ors of the Schuylkill Cen­ter logo and its sig­na­ture red maple leaf, the “Rib­bon of Red” will trans­late the cen­ter’s iden­tity into a strik­ing pal­ette of col­or­ful flow­ers, berries, leaves and stems (such as red maple, red­bud, staghorn sumac and An­dro­pogon grass) in the land­scape.

“The project,” Weil­bacher said, “is a ma­jor com­po­nent of our Mas­ter Plan, which in­cludes re­vamp­ing our vis­i­tor cen­ter, re-en­vi­sion­ing our Wildlife Clinic as a world-class fa­cil­ity, build­ing a new trail con­nect­ing us to Roxborough on the other side of our prop­erty, adding en­vi­ron­men­tal art in­stal­la­tions at key points on our trails and pre­sent­ing cut­ting-edge pro­gram­ming.”

The River Trail con­nec­tor in­cludes the fol­low­ing fea­tures:

• Sig­nage iden­ti­fy­ing the Schuylkill Cen­ter

• A bike rack, sup­ported with a grant pro­vided by REI, so that vis­i­tors can lock their bikes at the River Trail and ex­plore the cen­ter’s trails

• A wel­com­ing kiosk with a large trail map and pa­per trail maps for vis­i­tors to use, as well as in­for­ma­tion about the cen­ter’s ed­u­ca­tional pro­gram­ming

• An over­look of Smith Run, a rare first-or­der stream that orig­i­nates on the Schuylkill Cen­ter’s prop­erty, passes through a forested glen and flows un­der­neath the River Trail di­rectly into the Schuylkill River, along with in­ter­pre­tive sig­nage that puts th­ese wa­ter re­sources in con­text

• A gath­er­ing space for the pub­lic, al­low­ing the Schuylkill Cen­ter and the Cir­cuit Trails net­work to hold pub­lic events on site, us­ing the con­nec­tor as a meet­ing and pro­gram­ming space

Virid­ian Land­scape Stu­dio served as the land­scape ar­chi­tect and de­sign team lead on this project. The en­gi­neer­ing firm was Me­liora De­sign. Paul W. Stein­beiser Inc. was the project con­trac­tor. Graphic de­sign firm Cloud Gehshan worked with the Schuylkill Cen­ter on re­vised trail maps and sig­nage de­sign for the site, in­clud­ing in­ter­pre­tive sig­nage for the stream over­look. PECO pro­vided ac­cess to build trail as­sets within the PECO right-of-way.

SUB­MIT­TED PHO­TOS — SCHUYLKILL CEN­TER

The Schuylkill Cen­ter for En­vi­ron­men­tal Ed­u­ca­tion holds a rib­bon-cut­ting cer­e­mony for the new River Trail Gate­way Thurs­day, Sept. 27.

SUB­MIT­TED PHO­TOS — SCHUYLKILL CEN­TER

The Schuylkill Cen­ter for En­vi­ron­men­tal Ed­u­ca­tion holds a rib­bon-cut­ting cer­e­mony for the new River Trail Gate­way Thurs­day, Sept. 27.

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