William Penn Foundation Approves Nearly $6 Million in Grants to Advance Circuit Trails Network in Nine-County Region in Pennsylvania and New Jersey

Watershed Protection

William Penn Foundation Approves Nearly $6 Million in Grants to Advance Circuit Trails Network in Nine-County Region in Pennsylvania and New Jersey

Posted: Wednesday, June 1, 2022
Source: William Penn Foundation

PHILADELPHIA (June 1, 2022) – June is Great Outdoors Month and Saturday, June 4 marks National Trails Day. In that spirit, the William Penn Foundation has announced its most recent round of grants – $5.9 million – to 12 organizations in the regional Circuit Trails Coalition. The grants will support continued efforts to build and encourage equitable use of trails for walking, biking, commuting and other activities throughout nine counties in Greater Philadelphia and southern New Jersey.

The Circuit Trails is one of America’s largest regional trail networks, constituting hundreds of miles of trails and growing each year. The William Penn Foundation has for many years supported development of the Circuit Trails both as a means of alternative, active transportation, and also to increase access to and engagement with our region’s waterways. Currently, more than 350 miles of the planned 850-mile Circuit Trails network are complete. This new funding will help to advance planning, communications, advocacy, and programming to further position trails as a welcoming destination for all and to continue to add completed trail segments to the network.

Trail use has grown significantly during the Covid-19 pandemic as more people seek out the trails for recreation, relaxation, and transportation. Across the region, this heightened demand demonstrates a widespread appreciation, across demographics, of the value of trails and green spaces for physical and mental health. However, trail access remains inequitable, and there are noticeable racial disparities in trail users. The Circuit Trails Coalition has prioritized justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion as core values in all aspects of trail planning, programming, outreach, and advocacy, including the composition and work of the Coalition itself.

“Some 75% of Circuit Trails are within 500 feet of a waterway, with many trails running right alongside rivers and streams. As more people – including many in urban neighborhoods who have been separated from waterways and natural areas for decades – derive enjoyment and value from the trails, we believe they will become more inclined to help protect and steward nature and clean waterways throughout our region,” said Stuart Clarke, Program Director of Watershed Protection for the Foundation. 

There is also promising opportunity for the Circuit Trails Coalition to leverage these investments and their subsequent impact to activate additional funding through current federal initiatives such as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), the America the Beautiful/30 by 30 Initiative, and the Justice40 Initiative. The Infrastructure and Jobs Act seeks to improve and upgrade America’s physical and social infrastructure, which includes active transportation routes like trails; the 30 by 30 initiative intends to inaugurate a long-term commitment to conserving land; and the Justice40 initiative seeks to ensure that 40% of federal investments to address the climate crisis are directed to underserved communities to undo patterns of disinvestment in those areas.

The newly approved Foundation grants will provide support for projects and staff working directly to develop community relationships and encourage trail use; secure state and federal funds for future construction; and for advocacy, information sharing, and relationship-building to increase and sustain public investment and support for trails and the many benefits that they provide. A key portion of the grants awarded will go to ensuring that the Circuit Trails network is welcoming to, and meets the needs of, all local residents, particularly those in under-resourced communities.

“Many aren’t aware of all that goes into building even just one mile of trail. There are significant costs involved with planning, land acquisition, construction, management and more, but the benefits of a completed trail and a connected trail network level the playing field for communities and bring incremental economic and human benefits to the region,” said Sarah Clark Stuart, chair of the Circuit Trails Coalition and executive director of the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia. “We are so grateful for the incredible support of the Circuit Trails from the William Penn Foundation. This funding will be critical in helping the Circuit Trails Coalition achieve our goal of completing 500 miles of trails by 2025 and to continue to emphasize the trails as places that are inclusive and welcoming for all.”

The following Circuit Trails Coalition organizations have been awarded two-year grants, totaling $5,909,300:

  • Appalachian Mountain Club
  • Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia
  • Brandywine Conservancy
  • Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor, Inc.
  • East Coast Greenway Alliance, Inc.
  • Heritage Conservancy
  • New Jersey Conservation Foundation
  • Pennsylvania Environmental Council
  • Rails to Trails Conservancy
  • Riverfront North Partnership
  • Schuylkill River Greenway Association
  • Tri-State Transportation Campaign

For more information on the Circuit Trails grants, click here.

Since 2011, the Circuit Trails have secured more than $310 million in public funds and added 106 miles of new trails. The Foundation’s previous capital investments through the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC), totaling $22 million over 11 years, have directly resulted in 29 new miles constructed, 11 miles rehabilitated, 49 miles designed, and 99 miles planned. When the entire network is complete, more than 50 percent of the region’s population—more than 3.1 million people—will live within one mile of the Circuit Trails network.


About the William Penn Foundation: 
The William Penn Foundation, founded in 1945 by Otto and Phoebe Haas, is dedicated to improving the quality of life in the Greater Philadelphia region through efforts that increase educational opportunities for children from low-income families, ensure a sustainable environment, provide inclusive and equitable public spaces and arts and culture experiences, and advance philanthropy in the Philadelphia region. Learn more at www.williampennfoundation.org.

About the Circuit Trails: 
The Circuit Trails is a vast regional trail network of hundreds of miles of multi-use trails that is growing each year.  One of America’s largest trail networks, the Circuit currently includes more than 350 miles of completed multi-use trails with a vision of eventually connecting more than 800 miles of trails across a nine-county region in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Nearly 65 nonprofit organizations, foundations and agencies are working together as part of the Circuit Trails Coalition to advance the completion of the trail network.  A premiere regional amenity, the Circuit Trails connect people to local communities and destinations, providing endless opportunities for recreation and commuting.  So whether you bike it, walk it, run it or paddle alongside it, the point is — just enjoy it.  Learn more at www.circuittrails.org and connect with the Circuit Trails on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to find out what is happening #OnTheCircuit.

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