By John Chambless
A ribbon cutting held on Monday evening in Kennett Square's Pennock Park was a celebration of cooperation between the borough, the parks department and a group of volunteers who are dedicated to creating a walking trail that will unite the community.
The quarter-mile stone dust trail, which loops around the two softball fields in the park, is a small part of an ambitious trail proposal being spearheaded by the Kennett Trails Alliance. Ultimately, the group envisions a 10- to 15-mile loop that ties together the Stateline Woods Preserve, Bucktoe Creek Preserve, Anson B. Nixon Park, the Kennett Area YMCA and the attractions of downtown Kennett Square. Parts of the trail system are complete, and parts are in progress, but Tom Janton, the executive director of the Trails Alliance, said the completed project will be a big benefit for the region.
"We have a vision of the interconnectability of trail segments throughout a multipurpose trail loop," he said. "This is one segment of that vision. But, at the same time, we're allowing the park here to complete another segment of its vision … This is a 10-year project. There are so many great things that have already been done here. We're trying to complement what's been done in terms of existing trails - for example, the Stateline Preserve, the Marshall Bridge Preserve -- and we're linking them. Our group is dedicated to connecting the Kennett community to its natural beauty."
The trail will ultimately connect to the Kennett High School sports fields and provide a place for cross-country runners to train, Janton added. "Nowhere in the Kennett area do we have anything that's connecting the assets of our community - the YMCA, the downtown, the Mason=Dixon monument, the preserves," he said. "All these things are parts of what we want to achieve."
Joseph Meola, the chairman of the Kennett Area Park and Recreation Board, said the trail loop is only the latest improvement in Pennock Park, which is situated between a mushroom plant and a wastewater treatment facility on South Street. Since 2007, the board has installed new lighting, fencing, new dugouts, a new sign and landscaping, an expanded parking lot, a playground, landscaping and trees, making the park a welcoming spot for ball players, and now walkers.
In his opening remarks at the ribbon cutting, Meola credited Claire Finfrock, the recreation coordinator for the Kennett Area Park and Recreation Board, with brainstorming the park's transformation. "This is a great moment for us," Meola said. "For years, before we even collaborated with the Trails Alliance, at every board meeting, Claire would close the meeting with, 'Joe, we've got to get a trail in the park.' As time went on, sure enough, the project came together. It's a great day for us to take this park and make this a great part of the commnity. … It's an example of groups working together. And there's more to come. I really want to say to the borough, to all the members of the township, thanks a million. We want to do more down here and make this a beautiful place."
Finfrock credited the cooperation of the borough, the township, the Kennett Run Charities, state grants and the E. Kneale Dockstader Foundation for providing the funding for the park improvements and the new trail.
Ryan Costello, the chairman of the Chester County Commissioners, said he didn't directly work on the project, but attended the ribbon cutting to show his support. "This is a terrific collaboration by the local community to continue to link trails," he said. "It's a critical part of the Chester County land use plan and its recreational mission."