The Kennett Greenway is all about connectivity. It’s about connecting trail sections so that, when it’s complete, there will be over 14 miles of trails for people to enjoy that will also connect them with everyday destinations. It’s also about connecting people with nature and nurturing a deeper understanding of the interconnected ecosystem in which we live. And it’s about connecting people with one another—building community.

During these months of isolation, disconnection, and virtual communications, the idea of connection has taken on a new and deeper meaning for many of us. Which is part of the reason why, says Executive Director of the Kennett Trails Alliance Christina Norland, the Kennett Greenway Activity Trail on Saturday morning is such a breath of fresh air. “We want to bring joy and enable people to come and enjoy the beauty of nature in a safe way,” she says. “This celebration—of the local community and of the reopening of the Chandler Mill Bridge to pedestrians and bikers—really embodies all sorts of things that the Kennett Greenway represents.” The Activity Trail will be held this Saturday, October 3rd, from 8am–12pm.

From the parking lot at Herb Pennock Park on West South Street and all along the Parrish Trail and Chandler Mill Road, which will be closed to car traffic, safely distanced activity stations will offer opportunities to engage and connect with nature, arts and culture, and history. “Kennett Multimedia and Casa Guanajuato will be there with activities to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, and The Land Conservancy for Southern Chester County (TLC) will conduct safely distanced tours of the Nature Center and host activities including a scavenger hunt,” Norland says. “CrossFit Kennett Square will lead stretching exercises and people will have a chance to give their input on the future vision for the trails. We also have over 1,500 pieces of chalk for drawing murals on Chandler Mill Road. We’ll be taking drone photos to share on social media and award a prize for the best mural.”

There will also be special activities to learn more about the area’s rich history, including connections to some of the untold stories of the Underground Railroad and Black history led by Voices Underground and the Bethel AME Church. With so many different opportunities for engagement as well as freebies and free snacks including popsicles from La Michoacana, there will be something for everyone. Norland also emphasizes that safety is important. “We do ask that everyone be prepared with a face covering and be respectful of social distancing.”

Norland joined the staff of Square Roots Collective in January to lead the Kennett Greenway project. She brings a background in law and finance, as well as a passion to connect people with the natural beauty of Southern Chester County, to her role. “Like most of the projects supported by Square Roots Collective, the Kennett Greenway focuses on three aspects of a thriving community—social impact, community development, and environmental stewardship,” Norland says. Other projects spearheaded by Square Roots Collective (SRC) include the Southern Chester County Opportunity Network (SCCON), the Creamery of Kennett Square, and Voices Underground.

As with any major infrastructure project, Norland says, it will take time to fully connect the different segments of the Kennett Greenway. “In the meantime, we want people to get out and take time to enjoy the pieces that we do have. When it’s complete, the trails will connect downtown Kennett to ten different parks encompassing over 1,500 acres of preserved and open space that are free for everyone to safely and respectfully enjoy.”

The importance of inclusion and free and equitable access to public space can’t be overestimated. “Lots of people live in apartments, and public spaces offer their only opportunity to get out and enjoy nature. Everyone deserves to have a place to connect with nature and to feel welcome in these spaces, regardless of where they come from, what they look like, the neighborhood they live in, how they identify, or their physical ability.” She smiles. “Our goal is that you don’t have to have an $800 stroller to enjoy these trails.”

Grant funding, and the support of both the Borough and the Township, are critical to making the Kennett Greenway a fully connected reality. Two key segments of the Kennett Greenway that are a focus for resources in the near term are the Magnolia Underpass and Birch Street. The Borough of Kennett Square and Kennett Township have joined together to apply for a Pa CFA multimodal transportation fund (MTF) grant for the “Kennett Greenway Connectors Project,” which includes building the Magnolia Underpass and repairing the degraded infrastructure on Birch Street. The underpass, which will go under East Penn Railroad behind Herb Pennock Park, will connect the Borough via a trail to Magnolia Place. Proposed improvements to Birch Street include implementing storm water best management practices and adding a cohesive sidewalk network, lighting, trees, and traffic calming to make the street safer for pedestrians and cyclists, including many young people who regularly use Birch Street to walk to and from school, the Y, and the Garage. “We’re very thankful to both Borough and Township leaders for voting unanimously for a safer, more equitable, and connected community,” Norland says.

Stream restoration to improve our watershed and undo some of the damage that’s been done over time is another aspect of this holistic project. An Audubon bird garden with native plants on the Red Clay Trail by the Cypress Street Bridge and the Kennett Area YMCA is a new undertaking, and Norland is working with KCSD on plans for designing murals under the bridge. Another integral part of the Kennett Greenway vision, Norland says, is raising the next generation of stewards. “You have to enjoy nature in order to want to save it, so it’s important to help young people develop relationships with nature. There are lots of cool opportunities for collaboration between the municipalities and community organizations all along the Greenway, and we hope Saturday’s Activity Trail, which is a first-time event, will be a spark to help people catch the vision for what they want their trails to be.”

“We’re grateful to our early collaborators and event sponsors Kennett Township, TLC, and SRC, and we’re looking forward to bringing in more and more community members, businesses, and organizations as we go,” Norland says. “There’s lots more engagement to come and I encourage anyone with an interest in being part of this community collaboration to contact me through social media or our website.”

Follow the progress of the trails at @kennettgreenway and www.kennettgreenway.com. More information about Saturday’s event can be found at https://kennettgreenway.com/get-re-kennected-activity-trail/