After years of planning, the scenic East Branch Brandywine Trail in Chester County, Pennsylvania, is expected to be complete by the end of 2010. The 2.4 mile trail is a joint project by West Bradford and East Bradford, and will become part of a larger trail network in Chester County.1 The West Bradford portion of the paved trail is already open to use, and on a fine October day, attracted walkers, joggers, and bicyclists. The West Bradford trail begins south of a trestle bridge in the Brandywine Meadow Preserve, where West Bradford built a parking lot. It continues to where an abandoned bridge once stood; that bridge was replaced this summer with a new pedestrian bridge.2
The East Bradford portion of the trail actually encompasses two sections. The northernmost section begins where West Bradford’s trail ends, at the pedestrian bridge, and continues to Gibson’s Bridge, a covered bridge that allows Harmony Hill Road to span the East Branch of the Brandywine Creek. This section is also complete, fully paved, with a few benches along the trail for those needing to rest a moment or to enjoy the scenery. East Bradford has a small parking lot already in place on Harmony Hill Road, near Gibson’s Bridge.
The East Bradford’s southern section is not yet complete, but the work done so far is impressive. The southern section continues from Gibson’s Bridge to a point just adjacent to the the M. John Johnson Nature Center. The nature center is at Route 322 and Skelp Level Road. There is a grass-covered dirt trail that leads from the nature center’s parking lot to the future southern-most end of the East Branch Brandywine Trail, with a narrow set of steps connecting the nature center’s dirt trail to the East Branch Brandywine Trail.
Although construction is ongoing during the week for the southernmost section, on weekends intrepid individuals can be found walking along this section of the trail, which is not yet paved (nor is it technically open to use). Some sections can be quite muddy after a hard rain, and the northernmost section has crushed stone already in place, in preparation for the next round of paving work to be done by DiRocco Brothers. Most of the trail has already been cleared to a width of approximately ten feet, following the meandering East Branch of the Brandywine Creek.
Along with several companions, both human and canine, we walked the trail from the nature center to the new pedestrian bridge. Although this scenic trail was generally quiet, at times we could hear traffic from Route 322 on the other side of the east branch of the Brandywine Creek. The completed portion of the trail lends itself well to multi-use, as most of the trail is fairly level once over the pedestrian bridge. The incomplete portion of the trail is also surprisingly level, and holds promise that it will also lend itself well as a multi-use trail.
The East Bradford section of the trail has both historic and future significance. Historically, the trail follows an old trolley bed that once connected West Chester and Downingtown – the West Chester Street Railway Trolley bed. In the future, the plan is that the trail will become part of a larger trail network encompassing trails from the Delaware State line, along the Brandywine Creek, all the way to Chester County’s northern boundary.