Sandy Aftermath: Current Conditions on the Schuylkill River Trail

The trail seems clear, but the Philadelphia Parks and Recreation department urges caution.

Runners earlier this afternoon at Boathouse Row

It didn’t take long for a steady stream of runners to descend upon the Schuylkill River Trail this afternoon, after the cold rain finally let up. Although both Kelly and Martin Luther King Jr. drives are currently closed to drivers, the Philadelphia section of the trail appears to be relatively clear, according to Mark A. Focht, first deputy commissioner of the Philadelphia Parks and Recreation department. “Anecdotally, the paved [Martin Luther] King and Kelly Drive recreation trails and Schuylkill Banks are in good condition, although they are littered with small twigs and limbs,” he said in an email. “We have not received reports on trail conditions in the Wissahickon.”

I went down and checked out part of the Schuylkill Trail and Schuylkill Banks this morning and found them to be pretty clear, considering the power of last night’s storm. Piles of wet leaves littering the pavement were probably the most treacherous obstacles. In the stretch near the Art Museum, I didn’t see any fallen trees or significant branches blocking the path. And the river was a good 18 inches or so below the retaining wall in most parts, although the debris-filled water was racing by at very high speeds.

Focht says clearing trails throughout the Fairmount Park system is not a top priority for his department at this time. “The first priority of PPR staff is to clear roads of debris (branches and limbs) and to remove trees blocking roads. We have over 500 tree emergencies reported,” he says, adding that this is not an unusually high number. “It is too early to say definitively what condition the trails are in throughout the park system.”

The department is urging trail users to exercise caution when venturing out today and in the foreseeable future. Says Focht, “It will take several weeks for us to completely clean up from the storm.”