To help connect the region's bicycle and pedestrian paths, the William Penn Foundation has given $8.6 million for a planned 750-mile trail network.
The money will be funneled to local governments and nonprofit organizations to design, plan, and build trails, with an emphasis on urban corridors, Andrew Johnson, director of the foundation's watershed-protection program, said Wednesday.
The foundation gave $7 million to the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission to award for trail projects over the next three years.
And it gave $1.6 million to the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy to "build awareness of this significant regional amenity," the foundation said.
The trails are part of the Circuit, a network being built for pedestrians and bicyclists in Southeastern Pennsylvania and South Jersey.
About 300 miles of trails in the network have been built, and an additional 50 miles are in development, leaving about 400 miles to go.
Trail advocates hope to complete the network within 20 years at a cost of $250 million.
The push for local trails coincides with a national drive to create a 3,000-mile East Coast greenway from Calais, Maine, to Key West, Fla. Segments have been completed to make up about 29 percent of that span.
The William Penn Foundation also contributed $10 million for regional trails in 2010.
"The foundation has supported trails since at least 1986," Johnson said. "We reached a point where all the individual trails were adding up to a regional network . . . and we are perpetuating the momentum in defining this unique asset."
Johnson said the trails also would contribute to another of the foundation's key interests - boosting public access to area waterways.
The DVRPC, a nine-county planning group, last week amended its 2015 work plans to include the new money.
It will aim the funds to "close priority gaps and complete key segments" in the trail network, the DVRPC said.
A map of the Circuit trail network is available at http://connectthecircuit.org/