AMC Completes Study of 30 Circuit Trails

Visual Assessment Project

AMC has completed its Visual Assessment Study, “Protecting Significant Views Along The Circuit: A Visual Assessment of Land Conservation Priorities for Viewsheds Along The Circuit Trails.” With funding from the William Penn Foundation, AMC and project participants studied thirty Circuit Trails in Pennsylvania and New Jersey with the goal of determining locations of unprotected parcels within key trail viewsheds.

Within the nine-county DVRPC region, and a small section of southern Berks County, the study focused on trails or trail section in suburban and rural areas with parcels that may be vulnerable to future development.

The Pilot Project

In order to define and test the study methodology, AMC first conducted a visual assessment pilot project. This allowed AMC staff to make adjustments to the study methodology, gather feedback from project stakeholders, and work with KOPs in the Wikimapping format. The pilot project study area was an eight-mile section of the Schuylkill River Trail from Pottstown to Birdsboro in Montgomery and Berks Counties.

The Thirty Circuit Trail Study

Using what was learned from the Schuylkill River Trail pilot project, AMC proceeded to the 30 trail project. AMC staff used Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to analyze parcel level data to determine trail viewshed areas. A viewshed can be defined as the area visible from a specific location along a trail. Parcels were ranked based on visual and scenic resources, key observation points (KOPs), size, and adjacency to existing protected open space. During the 18-month study, project stakeholders provided input including refinement of the study methodology, the KOP locations, including photographs, and other trail information such as adjacent natural, historic, and cultural features. The study results include information on number and acreage of protected and unprotected parcels within trail viewshed areas and can be used by municipalities, counties and conservation organizations to assist in prioritizing potential conservation easement and acquisition projects. An Executive Summary provides an overview of the project and data for top ten trails.

Next Steps

On Wednesday, April 24th, AMC will host a webinar to review the project results, gather feedback and discuss the next phase of the project. On Thursday, May 16th, AMC staff will present the project at the Pennsylvania Land Conservation Conference at Skytop Lodge in the Poconos.

AMC will continue the project by developing a “Top 10 Most Threatened Views” list for the region. AMC may also expand the study to include trails that are not included in The Circuit or are outside The Circuit.

Photos: Montgomery County Planning Commission, L to R: Chester Valley Trail, Perkiomen Trail, and Route 202 Parkway Trail