Amidst the autumn-hued foliage in Schuylkill County, a community gathered Thursday afternoon at the Auburn Bridge on the John Bartram Trail to celebrate a significant milestone—the inauguration of a freshly renovated bridge. This bridge stands as a pivotal link in the extension of the Schuylkill River Trail, seamlessly connecting Berks and Schuylkill counties.
Elaine Schaefer, Executive Director of Schuylkill River Greenways, expressed joy at the grand opening, emphasizing the significance of the Auburn bridge gap closure after two decades of effort. She highlighted the transformative impact of such trails on communities, fostering connectivity and becoming destinations for visitors.
“This trail will be 120 miles when finished, attracting visitors from other states, benefiting local economies, and revitalizing communities,” Schaefer stated. The newly connected section promises breathtaking vistas, spanning seven or eight miles, making it an attractive and accessible ride for cyclists of all levels.
Originally a 1919 Pennsylvania Railroad bridge, it has undergone meticulous rehabilitation, now showcasing a brand-new concrete trail deck and sturdy steel railings. The latest phase involved the construction of a ramp to get back down to grade level. Once on the ground, a new segment of trail was built to connect with a low traffic on-road trail section, River Road. After a short distance along River Road, the trail meets the existing Schuylkill River Trail which continues north to the Auburn Trailhead.
Berks County Commissioner, Christian Leinbach, underscored the trail program’s effectiveness, especially in eliminating breaks and fostering seamless connections between communities. “Now you can go from Auburn to Hamburg in Northern Berks County, connecting great little communities and businesses,” said Leinbach.
The project received a boost in November 2019 when Schuylkill River Greenways secured a $367,500 grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR).
“Trails like this are such a boon to the community because they connect communities, so you can get from one place to another, without getting in your car,” Schaefer explained, highlighting the broader impact on transportation habits and local economies.
Elaine Schaefer also acknowledged the local support, saying, “We have so many people here who have been thinking about this and waiting for this for 20 years so we’re excited to celebrate, and I can anticipate that this is going to be a very heavily used section of the trail.”
The community’s enthusiasm was palpable at the ribbon-cutting ceremony, attended by over 200 people. The newly opened trail section is poised to serve as a bustling hub, attracting locals and visitors alike. As the trail weaves through picturesque landscapes and historic structures, it stands as a testament to the collaborative efforts of local municipalities, commissioners, and trail enthusiasts who eagerly anticipate the positive impact on the region.
Commissioner Leinbach echoed the sentiment, saying, “Even though I’m in Schuylkill County today, I feel like we’re part of this because the trail connects Philadelphia all the way up to Schuylkill County.” The interconnectedness of the trail network reflects a broader regional collaboration, fostering a sense of community across county lines.
With the completion of this crucial bridge, the trail network takes a significant step forward, promising not only scenic routes for outdoor enthusiasts but also economic benefits for the communities it connects. As the seasons change, the newly extended trail is expected to draw in visitors, further solidifying its role as a key contributor to the region’s recreational and economic landscape.