By John Chambless

Staff Writer

While there's no visible evidence yet of a park in the village of Unionville, there are definite plans in motion behind the scenes.

At the July 1 meeting of the East Marlborough Township Board of Supervisors, township engineer Jim Hatfield outlined the progress being made on what will eventually be a 26-acre park located behind the post office on Route 82.

"I don't know how many years we've been working on this, but we are very close to being able to bid the first phase of construction for Unionville Park," Hatfield told the board.

The initial phase, on the eastern half of the property, will include a concrete entry area, some signs, an asphalt trail and two boardwalks that will cross environmentally sensitive wetlands. One boardwalk will be 70 feet long and the other will be 120 feet long, Hatfield explained.

He also outlined the lengthy clearance process for beginning construction, including several studies focused on bog turtles, which apparently do not inhabit the wetland areas in the proposed park.

"In the best case scenario, it will take two to three weeks for the clearance letter from the Department of Fish and Wildlife, another week to get the permit from DEP," Hatfield said. "Perhaps the last week of July, we could put out an ad for bids. We'd get the bids by sometime in mid-August, review them and receive the board's approval to execute the contract at your September meeting.

"We could actually start construction in mid-September, and hopefully be done with the bulk of the earth work by Thanksgiving. The goal is to finish the bulk of the construction by the end of the calendar year," Hatfield said.

Supervisor Bob Weer asked if the project would include cleanup of an abandoned quarry on the property that has been used as a dump.

"That would certainly make sense to include that," Hatfield said.

Township manager Jane Laslo added that the cleanup would be a good project for volunteers. "It would be an opportunity to get people who are interested in the park together for a day or maybe more," she said. "We might need some heavy equipment from the township to help us, but I think that's a perfect opportunity to get a little bit of community involvement in the park. It absolutely has to be cleaned up," she said.

After discussion, the board unanimously granted their conditional approval to go to bidding for the first phase, pending the approval from the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Department for Environmental Protection.

The board also heard from Kennett Square attorney John Twombly, representing the Kennett Square Country Club, who said that the club's tennis courts may soon have lighting.

"We've wanted lights on our courts forever, for more than 20 years," he said. "Now we have a really strong membership, and financially we feel we can afford it."

The club's application for lights will be discussed at a July 25 meeting of the township zoning board, but Twombly said the club had surveyed nearby neighbors and gotten a favorable response.

"We've taken a survey of our rackets members, and we feel that our current members really want to play after work, and lights would give them an opportunity to extend their season," Twombly said. "And new members who want to join are interested in lights, because all of the competing clubs in our area have them.

"We've had a couple of meeting with our neighbors. We developed a set of rules and regulations to follow to make sure that there would be staff there to prevent excessive partying late at night that might have an impact on the neighbors. With their consent, we went forward and filed an application with the zoning board."

The lights, he said, will be added to the soft courts, which are farther away from Route 82, and will be shut off at around 10:30 each night.

The board granted its support of the application, but told Twombly that the final decision will be up to the zoning board.