Volunteers clear the Schuylkill River Trail of its past

News photo by Emily Thiel Joan Spiece, Spring City, Emily Weidner, Temple and Lorraine McArthur, Birdsboro, work hard to clear the Thun Trail of winter damage, leaves, sticks, logs and litter during the cleanup April 26.
News photo by Emily Thiel As part of the trail cleanup, the trail will have easier access for handicap users.

Volunteers with the Schuylkill Greenway Association and Berks County Bicycle Club cleared the Schuylkill River Trail of winter debris, litter, and dead trees and branches for a smoother ride for bicyclists and provide an openness for walkers, runners, and other trail users Saturday, April 26.

While the annual spring maintenance requires a number of hard working volunteers, those who have cleared the trail for years recognize its more positive use. In the early 1990s, volunteers recount the mattresses, furniture, toilets, sofas and other large items trash collectors would dumb on the trials.

Marvin Specht, Flying Hills, volunteered his Saturday morning to trek out to the Thun Trail for the part of the yearly maintenance. “We need a place to ride a bicycle,” Specht said about why wanted to help. Keeping the trail clear of debris encourages pedestrian usage. “It keeps kids off the roads.”

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Walkers, runners, and bicyclists often frequent the trail. Specht has been volunteering for years and is an active bicyclist. “I can’t wait until they open it up to Philly.” Currently, the Schuylkill River Trial is open from the Philadelphia Art Museum up through Norristown to the Port Providence Trailhead. The trail is uncompleted from the Oaks area to Pottstown. From Pottstown, the trail is complete through Reading, where it breaks, to pick up again in Hamburg. Eventually the trail will be one solid path from Pottsville to Philadelphia.

Users of the Schuylkill River Trail donate their time to clear miles of the trail for both themselves and others. On Saturday, sixteen volunteers split themselves along the trail in Birdsboro, Morlatton Village and the Thun section near Tim’s Ugly Mug.

“We had a good turnout,” Greg Marshall, trail maintenance coordinator Schuylkill River Greenway Association, said. Marshall accredited the turnout to the nice weather.

While today, there may be trail users dedicated to the upkeep, but Marshall says that was not always the case.

“[The trail was] not used at all early 1990s,” Marshall said. “There is much more use today... there are more people on it.”

ATV users often would ride the trail on their gas-powered bikes, but since upkeep and maintenance has encouraged proper trail use, most ATV riders steer clear of the trail and find other locations to accelerate to maximum speed.

“We can’t tolerate that use,” Marshall said. The Greenway Association promotes trail safety.

Joan Spiece, Spring City, started volunteering in the fall of last year, and came out again to rid the path of hazards that could bring riders to a stop.

“I use the trail a couple of times per week,” Lorraine McArthur, Birdsboro, said. McArthur volunteered to “clean up trails and make it clean and safe for bikers and walkers.”

“We want to make it easier for people to ride and get people off the road,” Emily Weidner, volunteer, said. Weidner, who resides in Temple, has been a bicycling advocate for years. In the 1980s she was the only female cycling instructor in the state. Her love of bicycling has remained strong throughout the years, taking her mind set citywide.

Weidner, whose car sports a “Rails to Trails” license plate, is a driving force for a bike sharing program for the City of Reading and Berks County. With bike sharing, stations would be set up throughout the area, where users could pick a bike up in one location and drop it off in another.

Along with the League of American Bicyclists, Weidner is “optimistic” that someday Reading may be as bike-friendly as cities like Denver, Colo., and Seattle, Wash.

In the meantime, the bicycle organizations’ members want to draw people out of their homes and onto the trails. Bollards (the yellow posts) were installed at the trailheads, which were put in place to keep ATV users from gaining access. Since illegal users have been staying off the trail, and to stay in compliance with ADA standards, Marshall and the other volunteers reduced the number of bollards to make it easier for handicap and user accessibility.

Throughout the cleanup day, bicyclists, walkers and runners often ask the volunteers about their efforts. As a pair of bicyclists pedaled off, they gave their thanks.

“We get that a lot,” Marshall said.

For more on the organization and their efforts, visit www.schuylkillriver.org.

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About the Author

Emily Thiel

Emily Thiel is the editor of The Southern Berks News and is the Community Engagement Editor for Berks-Mont Newspapers. Emily joined Berks-Mont in March 2013. She graduated from Kutztown University in 2011 with a degree in English with a concentration in Cultural and Media Studies. Emily is a native of Allentown, Pa. Reach the author at ethiel@berksmontnews.com or follow Emily on Twitter: @sthrnberksnews.