When is a barn more than a barn?
An empty barn on East Doe Run Road could be turned into a destination spot for students throughout southern Chester County. But that is a long way off.
The team behind the Garage youth centers in the county are proposing building a teen recreation center in the barn, which is owned by the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District but has never been used for anything other than occasional storage. It sits between the district's bus garage and the Unionville traffic circle, within sight of Unionville High School and Patton Middle School. It's a short walk to get there, the building has plenty of space, and the proposal would seem to be a winner.
The issue will be raised for the first time in a large-scale public forum on May 1, when the UCF Education Foundation and the UCF school board, along with representatives from the Garage organization, meet the public in Unionville High School's LGI room.
The community members who have been moving toward renovating the barn have lined up a convincing argument that has been presented to the school board and the East Marlborough board of supervisors in the past few months. They reportedly have widespread community support, as well as tentative approval from the township. What they're seeking is a low-cost lease of the barn from the school district, and they will take it from there – fundraising, construction and management of the facility.
At a school board meeting on March 17, township resident Kathy Brown told the board, "We propose that a low-cost lease from the district is the best choice. The property will remain in district ownership, and there will be no costs to the district. And if the project does not succeed, the barn will be renovated and returned to the district. Preliminary discussions with the community have been positive. Allowing us to use the barn would be a concrete example of a community that cares."
In the words of the UCF Education Foundation, “The purpose of the proposal is to provide programming that will promote positive curricular experiences for our students. We believe that having supervised activities and monitored places for our students to gather after school and on weekends will have a positive impact on our community. We seek to foster an atmosphere of inclusion, and provide a safe place to study and have fun. We will establish links for our youth in the greater community by providing access to local non-profit projects in and around our community. The barn will be a central place for our community to promote activities that engage our youth in concerns greater than themselves.”
In other words, instead of sending students home to empty houses after school, or giving them no place to find constructive activities, the barn will be a meeting place where good things happen. The meeting on May 1 will undoubtedly raise the same old questions about whether those rowdy teens will be running wild at the barn. But consider: Would you rather have them in a supervised setting, or left to their own devices?
Who could oppose the barn? We will find out. But from this early perspective, it looks like an idea without drawbacks.