East Pikeland marks its 175th Anniversary

Special guests partake in the French Creek Heritage Trail Ribbon Cutting Ceremony during East Pikeland Heritage Day. Seen here (L to R) are Supervisor J. Benson Campbell, County Commissioner Ryan Costello, County Commissioner Kathi Cozzone, Supervisor Ron Graham, Boyscout Justin Ackroyd (w/scissors), Rep. Becky Corbin, Rep. Duane Milne, Supervisor Rusty Strauss and State Sen John Rafferty. Photo by Virginia Lindak

On Oct. 4 East Pikeland hosted Heritage Day in honor of the township’s 175th anniversary. Community leaders and members enjoyed activities throughout the day.

Attendees enjoyed numerous events and activities at the township building, which included a classic car show, historical photographs and displays, music performances, wood carving demonstrations, a scavenger hunt for children and face painting.

There was also a raffle tent with gift baskets donated by local businesses and community members with prizes such as Eagles tickets, a coffee maker with gourmet coffee and a Sly Fox Brewhouse & Eatery gift basket. Earlier in the day there was a bike tour of East Pikeland Township, and at noon there was a roasted chicken barbeque luncheon. Students from Phoenixville Area High School dressed in costume as Revolutionary War soldiers to participate in the “Living History” program, and were joined by a Historic Commission volunteer who also dressed up as a German Hessian general to tell the story of East Pikeland’s role during the Revolutionary War.

The day’s main event was the ribbon cutting ceremony to mark the opening of the new French Creek Heritage Trail. The walking and biking recreational trail, which is located at Snyder’s Mill on Rapps Dam Road, is part of a larger network of trails in the area and is a paved and handicap accessible trail. The project has been in the works for years, and after purchasing 43 acres (which includes land along the French Creek between Hares Hill road and Rapps Dam road) from the Phoenixville borough in 2010, the plan was set into motion. The trail includes a new footbridge which crosses over a wide section of the French Creek, and also features new metal signs with historical information on the area’s significance during the Revolutionary War (namely the Continental Powder Works structure, which is behind the East Pikeland township building and nearby the trail).

Several speakers were on hand to note both the historical and recreational value of the new trail, including Sen. John Rafferty, Rep. Duane Milne, Rep. Becky Corbin and the Chester County Commissioners.

Commissioner Ryan Costello said he was happy to be there, and reminisced about his time growing up in East Pikeland and playing KYAL baseball in the summer. He also addressed the importance of the trail systems in the area.

“In Chester County we do a great job with our trail system, the Chester Valley Trail and the Schuylkill River Trail runs through the northern most part of East Pikeland. These arterial trails, the trails that connect to larger trails, (are) really where the municipalities can play a critical role in connecting what we call the “trail spines” of Chester County that are largely funded through the county government,” noted Costello.

“I had the very good fortune of coming into a township with a real activist group,” said Longtime Chester County resident Jim Garrison, who serves as Chairman of the East Pikeland Historical Commission and has lived in the township for three years. “All (of East Pikeland’s) volunteer organizations, and our elected officials at every level, local, county, state and federal, (have shown a) real spirit of cooperation.”

He said that East Pikeland has had “tremendous success” due to that spirit of cooperation.

“What we really love to do is educate our residents, our region, the public at large at the incredible heritage we have here in East Pikeland. It’s a living heritage, it’s layered very deeply. That’s what this trail shows... …it goes back to the very beginning of the military industrial complex here in the United States with the Continental Powder Works.”

Rep. Duane Milne, who was presented with a Certificate of Appreciation for serving as representative for the last seven years, spoke to the crowd.

“I commend your board of supervisors and all of your local volunteers. This is a township that gets it right.”

He complimented East Pikeland’s citizen volunteers for the “incredible” amount of work they have donated.

“(Making) these great projects happen is really a model for other townships and other communities in the area. I encourage you to keep up that good work. I’m just really struck by the beauty of this township and the efforts you’ve made to keep open space.”

Rep. Becky Corbin thanked the community for inviting herself and Rep. Milne to the event, and both representatives presented East Pikeland Township with a House Citation in honor of their 175th anniversary.

“It’s an exciting time to be here,” said Corbin. “Whenever you get before a group of people like this and you see the spirit of the volunteers and everything they have done, it really warms your heart and is very inspiring.”

East Pikeland Township Supervisor Ron Graham said the supervisors are determined to preserve the township’s historical legacy.

“The best part of it is our citizens are supporting us doing that. We have a very big cheering section. The Lenni Lenape Native Americans lived here for thousands of years. They liked it for the same reason we do, the French Creek. So we’re East Pikeland for 17 years but folks have been here forever. We’re just the most recent custodians of the stream and we’re trying to be good custodians here in the township,” he stated.

Township Manager Kim Moretti said the trail project was funded mainly by leveraging different grants and gift monies.

“Since the 1980s we’ve been acquiring land along the creek. We acquired the biggest parcel (43 acres) in 2010 and that’s what really got us started on developing it. We updated the master plan and applied for grants. It’s a $500,000 project, the trail, because of the bridges. It’s costing the township tax payers just about nothing. Our goal is to eventually connect it with the French Creek trail in Phoenixville, which will connect with the Schuylkill River trail. In the other direction they are working on portions of the French Creek trail that will eventually take you to Warwick Park,” Morretti explained.

Grants for the French Creek Heritage Trail Project were contributed by the American Battlefield Protection Program of the National Park Service, PA Department of Conservation & Natural Resources, Chester County Municipal Grant Program, Schuylkill Highlands, Schuylkill River Greenway Association and Radio Salvacion, Inc. More information is available online at eastpikeland.org