By Evan Brandt, The Mercury
POTTSTOWN >> We’ve all heard how trails can help improve a community’s quality of life, but how often do you hear a trail can actually save lives?
That may well be the case with the Manatawny Creek Trail being proposed from Memorial Park upstream to West Pottsgrove and Berks County.
Michael Lane, regional recreation coordinator, made a presentation about the trail and other planned improvements to Memorial Park during an April 5 borough council meeting.
He said the trail, as envisioned, would pass along the Manatawny Creek shore beneath Route 100 where the highway bridge crosses the creek.
This would allow pedestrians to get to the west side of Route 100 without having to cross the busy highway.
Last month, 24-year-old Donald Purnell was struck and killed while trying to cross Route 100 at Shoemaker Road as he was trying to get to his job at Wendy’s.
Since then, the borough erected an electronic sign warning drivers to be on the look-out for pedestrians, but a safe passage beneath the road may be a more permanent and safer fix, said Lane.
The trail proposal is part of a larger trail study begun under Lane’s predecessor Justin Keller, who is now Pottstown’s assistant borough manager.
It is also part of a larger set of improvements Lane is hoping will get funded with the next round of state grants.
The $60,000 grant from Pennsylvania’s Department of Conservation and Natural resources last year prepared a trail study for 4.5 miles of trails in nine municipalities — will look at how best to connect them all.
That completed, Lane has now applied for another $60,000 grant from the same agency to do the engineering and design work on the trail expansion, which has been broken into four segments. He hopes to hear word on whether the grant has been awarded at the end of June.
“And we’ll see how far $60,000 will go,” he said. If the grant is awarded, that design work could be completed by May of 2018.
Beyond trails, Lane also received authorization from borough council to apply for two sets of grants — one from DCNR and one from the Department of Community and Economic Development — to make upgrades to the play equipment near the splash park in Memorial Park.
The plan also calls for an handicapped accessible trail to the play equipment from an improved parking lot, improved landscaping, grills, benches and picnic tables. Lane said work on the grant funding is expected in October.
A second grant application with DCED would pay for taking out the unused tennis courts, improving and expanding the auxiliary parking in the back of that section of the part as well as install a rain garden for stormwater control.
Decisions on that round of grants, applications for which are due at the end of May, also will be announced in May, Lane said.
Matching funding is being provided by the Pottstown Area Health and Wellness Foundation.