College community to help revitalize Schuylkill River Trail on April 23

Members of the Penn State Berks campus community will join other community organizations on the Schuylkill River Trail (SRT) as part of the City of Reading’s participation in the Great American Cleanup from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, April 23. In addition, Berks students in service learning courses will lead activities during the event.

Laurie Grobman, director of Center for Service Learning and Community-Based Research at Penn State Berks, has been leading a college-wide initiative to join community organizations in creating a community park along a one-mile segment of the trail to enhance the quality of life for the residents of Reading.

Research indicates that throughout the United States, low income communities and communities of color disproportionately lack well maintained, aesthetically appealing and safe green spaces. Yet, green spaces promote physical activity, psychological well-being, a sense of social place, feelings of family kinship and solidarity, and community-building. The Reading SRT rehabilitation project aims to provide these benefits to Reading’s communities through a natural resource that has the potential to be a beautiful green space in the city.

While some local residents see the one-mile stretch of the river and its accompanying trail that runs through their town as a place marred by poverty, pollution and crime, thanks in part to a homicide that happened on the trail 16 years ago, Grobman (along with several colleagues, students and community partners) sees the trail as something that would benefit the community: the potential for a safe place for children and other members of the community to interact with nature.

The SRT project is about both process and outcome. It engages various community entities and neighborhoods in a collaborative effort to improve the quality of life in Reading. Local residents living in communities near the trail, students at Penn State Berks, various groups and organizations, and city government are working together to build relationships across diverse communities and to connect residents with their government. The goal is to develop and implement a community-driven vision.

The SRT project is built on cross-cultural collaboration and communication. In both process and outcome, the project aims to bring diverse communities in Reading together to build understanding and to build a park.

For more information about Penn State Berks involvement, visit http://sites.psu.edu/schuylkillrivertrailreading/.

Last Updated April 20, 2016