One perk of living in the city may be the ability to ride your bike or even walk to get around. In this respect residents of Chester County and parts of Montgomery Counties have a disadvantage because they often need to drive on the busy Route 30 bypass, and are constantly dealing with construction projects on 202 in order to get around.
Now those drivers have the option of getting from Exton to King of Prussia and eventually will be able to get all the way to Philadelphia without ever getting into a car.
It all started in 1991 when representatives from Chester, Montgomery and PennDOT came together to talk about a major trail at the site of a former railroad. More than 20 years later that vision known as The Chester Valley Trail (CVT) is a reality.
Ron Medykiewicz unloaded his vintage yellow Schwinn sport bike from the back of his mini-van.
“This is my 160th ride on this trail," Medykiewicz said.
Ron is a regular on the CVT. He starts his ride from the Exton Trailhead Park, a site that’s currently under construction.
Regional Park Superintendent for the Northern Park Region, Owen Prusack says the addition of 53 new parking spaces as well as the playground facilities and what’s considered “Phase 1A” will all be opened on September 1 if everything goes according to plan.
When complete, Phase 1A will connect the Exton Trail Park Head to Iron Lake Blvd which sits just behind the Walmart at Main Street Shopping Center in Exton.
Right now that mile stretch is fenced off with "no trespassing" signs and many are anticipating the ride.
The last phase to open before that were the 7+ miles from Route 29 all the way to Upper Merion Township towards King of Prussia which is known as Phase II.
To many riders, the trail may seem complete after those 15 miles are finally all connected but future developments are already in the works.
The Chester Valley Trail map shows anticipated construction that will link the trail in King of Prussia to the Schuylkill River Trail essentially connecting Chester County to Philadelphia.
Meanwhile designs are in place to extend the Schuylkill River Trail to Pottsville which will total 130 miles when completed.
Other trails like the Struble Trail in Downingtown will also be connected so people will be able to run circuits and loops instead of running from one direction and then having to turn around to run back the same way.
Besides adding more miles to the the trail, other plans are underway to enrich CVT and make it a better experience for riders as well as runners by including bathrooms, water fountains, murals and historical signs. One program is currently under review which will establish Trail Ambassadors to assist trail users and park rangers.
Park rangers patrol from 6 a.m. until just after sunset by foot, bike, and occasionally by motor vehicle.
The rangers already work with the Friends of the CVT facebook page where people are free to post any concerns that are passed along to park management.
Ron will likely be one of the first candidates to become a Trail Ambassador since he already works closely with the park and trail management as a Friend of the CVT and as a regular rider.
You won’t just find him on the trail when it’s nice and sunny, but also when it’s cold… and snowy.
Considered a commuter route, CVT is plowed during the winter so people who choose to bike to work are still able to get there.
During the summer months, the National Bike Challenge is underway and taking place along the trail as well. Vanguard and Siemens are two major corporate centers situated along CVT that are competing in the Challenge. Teams as well as individual bikers can join the challenge and log their rides until September 30.
A Break from Work
Other business parks and complexes that are nestled on either side of CVT encourage their employees to take advantage of the trail. On any given weekday you can find business casual men and women getting in some fresh air on their lunch breaks or waiting out rush hour traffic by taking a walk after they get out of work before they head to their car.
Board Secretary for the Board of the Friends of CVT, Mike Broennle says “it’s a natural magnet for some employees. Other employees though have no clue that this magnificent trail is here.”
On weekends families are walking their dogs or riding bikes together. Many stop at Target or Wegmans where they can use their facilities, fill up their water bottles or stop for a nice Sunday lunch at Wegmans’ Pub.
"It's the best thing to happen to Chester County," says Ron.
If you decide to check out the Chester Valley Trail and happen to see a yellow Schwinn feel free to say hi.
Directions to Exton Trailhead Park can be found here.