Almost everyone's heard of the Appalachian Traill, but how about the East Coast Greenway? It’s a developing trail system that stretches for 2,900 miles, winding its way from Maine to Florida. But the route through the City of Philadelphia remains lacking, and several years of planning have targeted Spring Garden Street as an optimal thoroughfare. It could be a transformational project, for travelers and residents alike.
On April 30 — just before the biannual State of the Greenway Summit convened in Philly — a team of federal auditors from the U.S. Department of Transportation visited the street to assess the plans.
The Greenway Summit was convened by the Durham, N.C.-based East Coast Greenway Alliance (ECGA). According to Executive Director Dennis Markatos-Soriano, ECGA chose Philly (where it has a regional office) in tribute to its recent progress in pioneering new trails and green spaces within the city.
“From Maine to Florida, they were so inspired by the progress in Philadelphia,” he says. “They're going to go back to their communities and say, 'I want to do what Philadelphia [is doing].'”
The spotlight on Spring Garden as the ideal Philly piece of the Greenway — running for 2.1 miles from Delaware Avenue to Pennsylvania Avenue — has been growing since 2009, when the Pennsylvania Environmental Council completed its Center City Greenway Feasibility Study. That was followed in 2011 by a conceptual master plan for a “cycletrack” on Spring Garden, serving both Greenway users and everyday Philly commuters, while also boosting stormwater management and other green efforts. The study, which incorporated input from the surrounding communities, concluded that a new bike and pedestrian-centered pathway could still leave enough space for drivers and parking.
“It’s a great area. It already has bike lanes,” says Markatos-Soriano of Spring Garden Street, but “many users have already identified that safety can be advanced.”
Multi-modal is the word — especially on the Philly portion of the trail.
“We are about helping people who may be currently driving around to see that there’s a safe space for active transport,” he adds. He wants future trail users to know “they don’t have to get in the car and pay all that money for insurance and fuel.”
The existing Greenway gets 10 million visits per year, and Markatos-Soriano is hoping that with continued expansions, that will jump to 100 million, making it “the most popular linear park in America.” Many people already walk or bike long stretches of the Greenway, but without the tents and gear that Appalachian Trail users carry — Greenway travelers can indulge in restaurants, hotels, and cultural and architectural attractions along the way.
The April 30 audit didn’t yield any firm deadlines for construction or a finalized plan, but “the fact that we’re having this conversation and bringing all the minds together is going to bring us the perfect solution,” insists Markatos-Soriano, calling the Spring Garden Greenway stretch “a huge improvement that I know is going to be implemented.”
Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Sources: Dennis Markatos-Sorianos, East Coast Greenway Alliance