What I saw in meetings about the construction of the Perkiomen Trail in Schwenksville was nearly identical to what I saw at the City of Coatesville City Council meetings between 2002/2005. What I saw was the intimidation tactics used at both locations. One tactic in particular was singling out people who came to the meetings for the first time and sorting out "for residents" and "against residents". The "property rights" people in both locations would then "gang up" those thought to be against them. They made a very big mistake when they did this to me.
We were fortunate to have Michael Marino as a champion for the Perkiomen Trail. Without his constant work for the trail it might have not been built. I think that when some "Wise Use" type put a wire to catch horseback riders across a trail that was part of the proposed route it got Mike Marino's attention. Mike was the Montgomery County DA at the time.
Back in the early 1990s people opposed to the Perkiomen Trail were saying (I'm going from memory of stuff said at meetings here.) their property values would go down, that someone "could see them in their back yard" (you could actually see fear in their faces) and that "people could use the trail for burglaries". I think a reason for opposing the trail never expressed in township meetings was that their marijuana growing operations & cross lighting ceremonies would be seen from the trail. Someone who lives along the Perkiomen Creek told me that (as of 2010) the KKK still had their "ceremonies" but no burning crosses.
The Perkiomen Trail is extremely popular now. An estimated 379,814 people a year use the trail. From "Perkiomen Trail 2008 User Survey and Economic Impact Analysis" Real estate listings for homes now say things like, "near the Perkiomen Trail".
The survey respondents were asked if they had been opposed to the trail when it was first proposed if their opinion had changed. Of the total, 42.4 percent indicated that their opinion had changed. Of those survey respondents, 74.3 percent indicated that they feel more favorable toward the trail than they had previously. Only 2.9 percent indicated that they viewed the trail in a much less favorable light...
Not everyone was in favor of the trail-conversion of the railroad corridor. Many of the adjacent land- owners argued that the agreement with the railroad, which dated back to the mid 1800s, called for the corridor to revert back to the adjacent property owners when the railroad ceased operations. Thus began a legal battle that lasted for nearly a decade.
In 1998, after almost nine years of litigation be- tween the county and roughly 30 property owners who fought the development of the trail, a more creative approach was adopted by the commission- ers. Negotiations began to acquire easements or the purchase of parcels. In some cases where there was strong opposition, the trail was routed off of the original rail corridor. Where it was absolutely necessary to acquire a parcel to link sections of the trail, the county used its condemnation powers and adequately compensated the property owner.
It wasn’t until 2000 when the project finally gained substantial traction. Newly elected County Com- missioner Chairman Michael D. Marino called County Open Space Planner John Wood into his office and told Wood he wanted to see the trail built before his term ended. To speed the project along, the commissioners decided to construct the trail without federal transportation enhancement funding.
Section by section, the trail began coming together. The first grand opening celebration for a northern five-mile segment was held October 6, 2001. The entire 19-mile trail was officially completed in November 2004.