Skip to main content

"Connecting the circuit" in Philadelphia

William Penn Foundation


For years, the William Penn Foundation invested in expanding the network of multiuse trails in the Philadelphia region. On both sides of the Delaware River, new trails – along the Schuylkill, on the Delaware waterfront, and branching into neighborhoods – attracted cyclists, walkers, runners, skaters and families and transformed the way residents commuted, traveled and exercised. Despite these efforts, only a few trails were truly connected, falling short of the Foundation’s vision of a network of trails that stitched a diverse city together.   

Macintosh HD:Users:ehart:Desktop:riding-bikes-in-the-landmark-towns.0.191.2048.1152.480.270.c.jpg

In 2011 the Foundation asked Spitfire to help its grantees build support for increased funding for trail construction and maintenance. Spitfire worked with a diverse coalition ranging from outdoor organizations to civic groups to develop an advocacy strategy and a message platform that amplified and elevated their shared aspirations and approach.   

The final missing ingredient? A name for the trails network. Spitfire conducted in-depth research into other cities’ transportation systems – from small trail networks in rural communities to the London Underground – and ultimately recommended criteria for selecting a new name for Philadelphia’s trails. It had to convey the unique character of Philadelphia without succumbing to “Liberty Bell” or “Ben Franklin” clichés and communicate the system’s transportation potential. Any system-wide name also needed flexibility to accommodate many already-named trails and expansive enough to ensure that new trails would be viewed as part of the network. Because the Foundation and grantees felt that the name should come from the community, Spitfire helped organize an online naming contest. More than 200 ideas were submitted, and a selection committee awarded the prize to The Circuit. With a name in hand, the newly energized Circuit Coalition quickly gathered momentum and rallied around their shared goal to Connect the Circuit.   

With Spitfire’s help grantees launched a kick-off event along the Schuylkill Banks trail in downtown Philadelphia to announce their new campaign and unveil the new logo for the trail system. With television cameras rolling, the mayor of Philadelphia and other local officials spoke about The Circuit’s importance as an attractive amenity and economic development opportunity in the region. Of course, the true test of any new name and engagement strategy is whether it lasts beyond the excitement of the launch. Today, more than five years later, the Circuit is going strong. Shiny new Circuit signs mark new trail segments across the region and the grantees’ shared website serves as a thriving hub for a reinvigorated community of trail activists and supporters. The Foundation’s trails grantees continue to work closely together to expand and connect The Circuit, engage new partners, and spread the word about how trails can make Philadelphia a better, more connected place to live, work and play.  

Spitfire services employed



Partner with Us

Issues Covered