Routes in Montgomery County are becoming increasingly popular, particularly the Schuilkill River trail.
But with whom?
A study conducted in August 2020 by the Montgomery Planning Commission found that the demographics of those using the trail do not always match the demographics of the communities through which the trail passes.
Significantly fewer young people, minorities, people with disabilities, the elderly and foreigners who are not seen on the trail in the same proportion as they live in settlements near the trails, reports study “Access to Montgomery County trails, diversity and awareness.”
This is unusual in Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Comprehensive Outdoor Plan for 2014-2019 found that about 92 percent of outdoor users across the state identify themselves as white.
“While the count (trail) indicates heavy use throughout the year, Montgomery County wants to ensure that its network of routes is fair, that it is accessible to all potential users, and that all Montgomery County residents as well as visitors available to them to know the benefits and feel comfortable using them, “- according to data audited district.
To date, “several communities located within the Pennypack and Schuylkill River Trail corridors have been identified as potentially disadvantageous and scarce compared to other communities. The SRT runs through the county’s most urbanized districts in Potstown and Norwich, each of which, among other indicators, has a significant minority population and poverty concentration. The Pennypack Trail, one of the county’s newest trails, runs through and near areas with growing populations in Asia and Eastern Europe, ”the planning committee said.
“Communities adjacent to the route network are not always well integrated with the route system,” and the main barrier to accessing the trail is the lack of pointers to trail access points, the 134-page study found. In addition, “it is important to provide secure and accessible connections that allow all potential users to access the trail from within the community.”
Originally designed simply to relax, people are increasingly using the trail as a way to travel by bicycle. In addition, “the ubiquity of e-bikes and the desire to meet the needs of the aging population, people with disabilities and there is no English-speaking population, create unique problems for the development of an inclusive system of routes,” – said Planning Commission.
As a way to address this issue, the Planning Commission looked closely at three different areas identified by census sites as having high population demographics that are not normally served.
1. The path of Shuylkil Norrystavn River – Spryng-Mil Road to Port-India Road. Analysis of demographic information near Norystavna shows that the population of the area is 42 percent white, 36 percent iron, and 3 percent of Asians, and 28 percent identified themselves ethnically Hispanics. “Compared with the region generally Great Philadelphia, census tract, adjacent to the road corridor are” well above average “percentage Hispanic population (over 35 percent), residents with LEP (over 19 percent) and low income residents (over 59 percent).
2. Trail on the river Shuylkil Potstown – Potstown area. According to the data, the population of Potstown is 69 percent white, 21 percent black, 0.8 percent Asian, 8 percent identify themselves as Hispanic. Census data show that the percentage of residents with one or more physical and or mental disorders (more than 19 percent) is above average. The percentage of low-income households (over 45 percent) is also above the regional average.
3. Pennypack Trail study area – from Lorimer Park in Abington, Bieber Road, Upper Moreland. Census trail data here includes three census tracts that show well above the average percentage of seniors (over 32 percent) living along the trail and a percentage of residents born outside the U.S. (over 19 percent) in two censuses, above the average tract, compared to the region.
District goals are to increase the diversity of users trails; raise awareness, visibility and ease of access to the system of county routes; and upgrade routes projects, to take account of the changing, diverse needs of the communities through which they pass.
The plan details how to achieve these goals, citing specific improvements to improve access, ramps to replace stairs, better, less confusing signs, improved security and the absence of “pop-ups” and good “etiquette” in Norristown.
In Potstown, access problems include a set of steps to Riverfront Park that connect the trail to South Hanover Street; limited indicators along the corridor; ignorance of the trail; no bilingual signs.
Along the Pennypack was identified an “inadequate” bicycle repair station and a lack of access to fresh water and additional benches in the high-aged area.
Identified solutions include unified and a rich system of signs on the streets and road signs at all county trails; newsletters that are sent to the homes of low-income residents who turned out to be more effective than social media or e-mail; improve the connection of sidewalks and provide access to all access points for people with disabilities. Changes in programming include more and more of a variety of activities aimed at attracting a more diverse population and its familiarity with the path
One of the unexpected results of the pandemic COVID-19 has been the increased awareness and use without improved signage and programs.
According to the plan, the number of Trail users in Montgomery County has at least doubled over previous years.
“The idea that people who have never used the trail before have been open to exploring this option is encouraging,” the plan’s authors wrote. “Now is the time to broaden the vision to ensure that people of all ages and backgrounds are aware that trails are available to them and that they feel safe using the trail.”
Although the routes are popular with the people you expect, “cyclists, runners and dog breeders, from the results of this plan it is clear that there is untapped potential for use by non-traditional user groups. To be truly fair, it is important that the design of the trail incorporates the recommendations contained in this plan. ”