Trail Heralds New Possibilities for Pennsylvania City

The Takeaway: An outdoor haven for walkers, runners, and cyclists adorns the City of Chester, which is designated an “environmental justice community” by the state.

Picture containing grass, trees, a fence, and the sky.
Area after completion of the Eyre Park Trail. Photo credit: Pennsylvania Coastal Resources Management Program
Picture of large, grassy area with plaque.
Area before completion of the Eyre Park Trail. Photo credit: Pennsylvania Coastal Resources Management Program

In Chester, Pennsylvania, visionary leaders collaborated with several partners to create the Eyre Park Trail, a half-mile artery located on a site that had been abandoned since the early 1970s, when a devastating flood had forced an estimated 500 families to relocate permanently. This is now a place to create happy memories, as people stroll, run, and bicycle alongside flood-resilient greenery, on a pathway that connects to trails up and down the Delaware River corridor. The Eyre Park Trail was made possible, in part, by a NOAA grant administered by the Coastal Resources Management Program within the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

“I am amazed at the transformation of this area,” said Chester Mayor Thaddeus Kirkland at the trail’s opening celebration. “Revitalization. Growth. Real community, where people are thriving. No longer are the days where we will have to venture to other places to experience what the creation of the trail represents. We are building a better Chester.”

A time to flourish

Chester’s 43,000 residents are eager to see their city rebound from a series of blows that had led the state to designate it an “environmental-justice community” and a “financially distressed community.” The city’s rate of poverty is three times the national average, and it hosts a disproportionate number of waste and incineration facilities, among the highest of any small city in the country. A coal plant, refineries, and trash transfer stations also dot the area. What’s more, 95 percent of the residents living closest to such facilities are Black.

Outdoor enthusiasts and weekly trail commuters will appreciate the spot’s transformation. It involved removing 500 tons of debris from inlets, removing 27,554 gallons of standing water, and repairing 1,232 catch basins. Plant-filled bioswales along the trail absorb and filter water, which lessens stormwater overflows and makes nearby Chester Creek cleaner. Other improvements include park benches, a bike rack, wooden fencing, and trash receptacles.

This trail complements longer-term plans to revitalize the Chester Waterfront District. View “Major Projects” on this site to learn more. (2023)

Partners: NOAA, Corvias, PENNVEST, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s Coastal Resources Management Program, Riverfront Alliance, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the City of Chester’s Department of Streets, Economic Development Authority, and Stormwater Authority