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THE FUTURE OF both Schuylkill River Park and the city got brighter this week, thanks to an agreement that will create two crossings onto the Schuylkill River Park Trail, and a pedestrian bridge near Locust Street.

Signed this week by Mayor Street and William G.M. Goetz, resident vice president of CSX Transportation Inc., the agreement is a win times four: The city, the CSX railroad, the Free Schuylkill River Park advocacy group and park users all make out well. That's a rare outcome in a culture where big business often employs "wear 'em down" tactics to sap energy and enthusiasm from grass-roots organizations.

CSX, which had balked at the street-level crossings - they cited safety reasons, though trail advocates suspect it had more to do with the convenience of parking railroad cars in the area - finaly gave in, and thus ended five years of fighting.

The city's greenscape grows. The railroad continues to use the tracks, recreational users will have greater access to the trail and the folks from Free Schuylkill River Park accomplished their goal to make the trail more accessible from the street, and keep train cars from blocking the trail.

The agreement illustrates a minor paradigm shift that we may see more frequently as the city continues to develop. In this case, the riverfront is no longer the sole propriety of industrial giants created in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Instead, a 21st century compromise - you could call it a partnership - won out, with costs being shared by the city, state and CSX.

Hats off to Russell Meddin and Sarah Clark Stuart, coordinators of Free Schuylkill River Park, and board chairman (and City Council candidate) Andy Toy. They showed that goals can be achieved when people get together, work for what they believe is right, and utilize all the resources at their disposal.

Also, U.S. District Judge Bruce Kauffman, who pushed the sides to agreement.

Now, a new timeline starts: 24 months for the crossings to be built at Race Street and Locust Street; 30 months to erect the pedestrian bridge.

And then, city residents get easy access to a new back yard, one that can take them from Valley Forge down to Bartram Gardens to Fort Mifflin, all the way to the airport.

Nothing beats a win times four. *