Manayunk Towpath Trail Reconstruction Nearly Complete

Schuylkill River Trail at Shawmont January 2 2012

Photo: Mike Szilagyi

Reconstruction of two miles of the Schuylkill River Towpath Trail from Manayunk to Shawmont is nearing completion, with a formal opening/ribbon-cutting expected within weeks. Welcome improvements include a new fine-crushed stone surface, widening of the trail to 8 to 12 feet, and new wood decks and railings on four trail bridges. Sensitive to stormwater runoff, Philadelphia Parks and Recreation specified porous pavement for the new blacktop approaches to the trail bridges.

With years of careful planning and permitting accomplished, the construction itself has gone smoothly and according to schedule. A stretch of favorable weather and the focused efforts of contractor Gessler Construction combined to limit the duration of the trail closure to two months (the trail is not yet officially open, but enough progress has been made that it was decided to take the barricades down last week).

Two related projects are about to get under way. The contract to upgrade a mile of Schuylkill River Trail, from Shawmont west to the Montgomery County border, is about to be awarded. This was the first segment of Schuylkill River Trail to be completed, back in 1978, and it’s in need of an upgrade. The narrow macadam barely accommodates the volume of cyclists, runners, and bladers who use the trail. With the upcoming project, the trail will be widened to twelve feet. The completion of a quarter mile of new trail between Shawmont and Port Royal Avenues means that trail users won’t need to use Nixon Street any more.

Manayunk Towpath January 2 2012

Photo: Mike Szilagyi

The Manayunk Canal itself is also in line for some attention. Built in the 1825 by the Schuylkill Navigation Company, the waterway hasn’t seen a canal boat in a hundred years. Lack of maintenance has allowed portions of the canal to silt in, particularly in its northern reach. A project to dredge and restore the stream flow of the canal is in the final planning stages and a public meeting is planned for late January or early February.

About the author

Mike Szilagyi was born in the Logan neighborhood of Philadelphia, and raised in both Logan and what was the far edge of suburbia near Valley Forge. He found himself deeply intrigued by both the built landscape and by the natural “lay of the land.” Where things really get interesting is the fluid, intricate, multi-layered interface between the two.

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2 Comments


  1. Thanks for doing this. I use this trail often, and that last bit into Manayunk (if you wanted to avoid the streets) was tough sledding on a road bike. I saw the construction, and I’m excited to try out the finished product.

  2. Nice! I ran a renovation of a former speakeasy on main with a lot of canal frontage, it was like 1988-1989, Manyunk was so simple, I could have bought a main street property for 175,000. was I stupid? There was book store cheese steak shop, record store and boutiques with true bargains, so south street and bohemian….. not what one sees today! thanks for the canal path! may folks enjoy the ever changing views canal back of the buildings and river views
    !

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