Volunteers headed by the Schuylkill River Heritage Area (SRGA) TrailKeepers and the Berks County Bicycle Club came out March 23 to clean up sections of the Thun Trail in Douglassville. Around a dozen local residents worked on the trail’s maintenance, picking up litter, sticks and cutting down dead tree branches. The workday was scheduled from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and is a yearly effort by local trail lovers.
Anesa Owen, of the AmeriCorps Vista, is working with the SRGA as a trail sustainability coordinator. She is currently focused on recruiting volunteers, writing grants and building the Trail Ambassador program. “There are about 40 involved in Berks,” Owen said, “We’re trying to branch out and start programs with the schools.” Companies often sponsor or adopt a trail where they either donate funds for the trail’s upkeep or work on the maintenance themselves three times per year. “We’re hoping to get a school to adopt a section,” Owen said, as she clears the trail of sticks and dead branches.
Kathy Yeagle, of Pottstown, heard about the workday by word-of-mouth. Yeagle rides the trail everyday, taking it up to Reading. “It saved my life,” she said, referring to the trail, “biking clears my head.” Yeagle, like the other volunteers, is enthusiastic about what the trail can provide and find it essential to keep the Schuylkill trail clear of debris for residents who are looking to exercise out in nature.
The Schuylkill River Trail will run 128 miles when fully completed. The trail goes alongside the Schuylkill River, starting in Philadelphia and running up to Pottsville. Parts of the trail are complete from the Philadelphia through Montgomery County to Phoenixville in Chester County, Pottstown-Montgomery County to Reading in Berks County and a section from Hamburg in Berks County to Auburn, Schuylkill County.
“I use everyday,” said Jim Watters, of Gilbertsville, “I clean it up because I have to give something back.” The trail can get congested due to storm damage and winter damage, which can cause safety issues for users.
“It’s nice to keep it open,” said Philip Razzano, of Birdsboro, who volunteered with his dad, Steve Razzano. “We want to have people feel that it’s safe. If we are maintaining it, more people will use the trail.” Philip bikes the trail when the weather gets warmer.
The trails are important to the people and dogs who use them and are also a key part to the culture of Berks County. A half-mile walking trail in Bern Township is the next section of the trail, set to be completed by summer.