A Tour Through Time of the Cresheim Trail

News // June 20, 2024

by Brad Maule, President of Friends of the Cresheim Trail

Hello, Friends of the Wissahickon! You may remember me from such Instagram accounts as @fowissahickon, which I ran from March 2016 through June 2023, when I relocated to York, PA. While I was sad to leave Philly and the Wissahickon, I’ve remained connected as president of Friends of the Cresheim Trail — which FOW has supported since the very beginning. 

In fact, in 1998 FOW conducted the first study for the creation of a Cresheim Trail. FOW was also among the parties who supported the feasibility study, in 2008, to connect the trail from Wissahickon Valley Park in Philadelphia all the way to Fort Washington State Park via an old Pennsylvania Railroad corridor.

FOCT incorporated as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in 2012 with Susan Dannenberg as founding president. Her husband David is a longtime FOW board member and crew leader. In their tenure, FOCT built the first two miles of trail, a network between the trailheads at Lincoln Drive & Allens Lane and at Germantown Avenue, with a connection into the Wissahickon at Buttercup Cottage. The existing trail includes a boardwalk, mountain bike features like rock drops and a log ride, and the outdoor classroom, a circle of log benches near Henry Houston School that’s well used and well loved by students and teachers alike. We also collaborated last year with FOW and Chestnut Hill Community Association to create the Friends Loop, a 10-minute loop trail through an old rock quarry accessed from the park space between Mermaid Inn and Chestnut Hill Flower & Garden.

FOCT also advocated for the legislation that would become the license agreement between the City of Philadelphia and PECO to share the right-of-way for the trail and the bridge over Germantown Ave. The ordinance was executed in May 2018, introduced by Councilperson Cindy Bass (8th District).

Since then, FOCT has been working with the City of Philadelphia, Montgomery County, Springfield and Cheltenham Townships, and SEPTA to plan the next phases of the trail. In March of this year, with support from Philadelphia Parks & Recreation, we opened a “rough draft” of the future rail trail between Germantown and Stenton Avenues. Eventually, this trail will continue through a tunnel under Stenton Avenue, pass the Cresheim Creek headwaters in Wyndmoor’s Mermaid Park, and run parallel Route 309 to Flourtown, where it will turn and cross Bethlehem Pike and Wissahickon Creek to connect to the Green Ribbon Trail in Fort Washington State Park. 

When complete, Cresheim will become part of the Circuit Trails network — paved, accessible, 10-foot wide, shared use. But one thing at a time. As of this writing in June 2024, the old rail right-of-way is passable from Germantown to Stenton, with a woodland loop at the northern end and a connection to Wissahickon East Park. Again, it’s a rough draft so the grasses and knotweed may be a little tall. Wear long pants and sturdy boots, and always check yourself for ticks. 

In the meantime, FOCT will continue plugging away at the slow, expensive, and bureaucratic process of building a rail trail. And we’ll continue our Cresheim Trail stewardship through monthly volunteer workdays. They’re on the third weekend of each month, with the next one coming Saturday, July 20th. Follow FOCT on Instagram and Facebook, or visit our website cresheimtrail.org.