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September 09, 2023

A portion of the Schuylkill River Trail to close for a restoration project

The Flat Rock Dam Betterment project will reconnect the waterway to the Manayunk Canal to improve local water quality

Environment Schulykill River Trail
Manyunk canal restorations Thom Carroll/for PhillyVoice

The Schuylkill River Trail along the Manayunk Canal will be closed until next year for a construction project to improve waterways in the area.

People who enjoy walking and biking along the Manayunk Canal will have to find a new route for exercise for the rest of the year. Starting Monday, the Schuylkill River Trail along the Manayunk Canal will be under construction as part of the Philadelphia Water Department's Flat Rock Dam Betterment project to improve water quality. 

Walkers and bikers can travel to a dead end at the worksite and must turn around. There will be a sign at Shawmont Avenue and Nixon Street and another just below Leverington Avenue on the Manayunk Towpath. 

PWD said the work, which will be done from Manayunk to Miquon, Montgomery County, includes pouring concrete that needs to be done before cold weather and temperatures start. 

The sediment in the waterway will be extracted to reconnect the canal, allowing water to flow again. 

There has not been water flow since 1940, WHYY said. From the 1850s until the 1940s, water flowing through the Manayunk Canal aided barges that delivered coal to textile factories, according to KYW Newsradio.

"When the railroad came through, it was no longer viable to run the barges, so they stopped using the canal," Water Department engineer Pete Reilly said.

Improventmes from the $15 million project include green stormwater basins, a perimeter fence for security, signage, and graffiti removal, more accessible access for maintenance and cleaning, and preservation and display of historic iron gearboxes.

Manayunk Canal project

The project is also expected to help improve the wildlife in the area, animals that live near and around water habitats, such as blue herons, green egrets, snapping turtles, and bass. The improvements will provide more oxygen and more flowing water; the current drudge is an unhealthy ecosystem for wildlife.

"It's not the healthiest of environments in its current condition," Brian Rademaekers, a spokesperson for PWD, said. "By basically going in and excavating that area where the water used to come in the canal, reconnecting to the river, and giving it a place to flow out down by Canal Street, we're going to bring some life back into that stretch of the canal."

The project is slated to be finished in August 2024.