Plans highlight good things to come at new township park
08/16/2016 01:04PM ● Published by Richard Gaw
During a presentation before the Kennett Township Board of Supervisors a few weeks ago, those who attended the meeting got their first glimpse into the short- and long-range plans for Barkingfield Park, the township's newly-purchased 45-acre public park, complete with schematics, photographs, concepts and site plans.
Although a few tweaks remain, it's a safe bet that no one left disappointed.
On Feb. 12, 2016, the township purchased the parcel along Bayard Road for $782,000, from local real estate developer Michael Pia, Jr. and his wife Stephanie. The Pia's had exclusive rights to purchase the property from the DeLeeuw family, with the stipulation that a conservation easement be placed on all 56 acres. When Pia began talking with the township about converting the remaining 45 acres to a public access space, the agreement with the township would give them the rights to develop a “passive” park, which would be restricted to the construction of trails, community gardens, dog parks – but no playgrounds and sports fields. The Pia's have retained the remaining 11 acres for their residence, on the corner of Bayard Road and Hillendale Road.
The township is expected to recoup 90 percent of their investment from reimbursements through a grant from the Department of Community and Natural Resources (DCNR).
Erin Gross, a town planner with Tom Comitta Associates (TCA), a West Chester-based landscape architectural firm, introduced the design plans detailing the work that the firm will be doing over the next few years.
The firm has designed a number of active recreation facilities and assisted several municipalities in the preparation of parks and open spaces. In addition to the township, it is currently assisting Middletown Township, Delaware County, and East Whiteland Township in the development of their parks and open spaces.
After meeting with the township's park committee, Gross said that TCA chose to create a passive recreational design for the park, that will confine much of the construction near the park entrance on Bayard Road, while keeping the majority of the park in its natural state. The plan calls for construction to be divided into four phases. Phase 1, now underway and expected to be completed by the end of September, will include the creation of a vast system of mowed trails that navigates around the outer perimeter of the park; a 22-space parking lot and entrance (to begin as a graveled lot), bordered by planted shade, orchard and buffer trees, and the installation of a rain garden.
A grand opening of the first phase of the park is expected to occur in late September.
Phase 2, scheduled to begin in spring of 2017, will include the construction of two dog parks (75' x 50', and 125' x 75'), crushed stone pathways, as well as water and electric installations. Phase 3, also scheduled to begin in 2017, will call for the installation of a butterfly garden, sunflower and wildflower fields, a managed meadow area, a nature study area, shade trees, crushed stone trails, as well as trail benches, and interpretive signage and mile markers.
Phase 4, scheduled for 2018, will include the development of a childrens' play area, a picnic pavilion, a comfort station and a central gathering space. In addition, the long-range plans call for the possible installation of a community garden, based on the need and interest of township residents.
Barkingfield Park's topography features both flat and steep sloping meadows, separated by the Osage Orange Hedgerow, which includes a tributary stream, and a buffer easement that separates the park from the Pia residence. The park contains four types of soils that Gross said drain well or moderately well.
Should the community's needs grow over the next decade or so, Gross said that the immediate plans are to keep the design as compact as possible, but could be expanded in the future.
“After meeting with the committee, one of the desires expressed is to keep the amount of change as small as possible," she said. "It can be larger, but we felt at this time, keeping the design minimal and compact was what we wanted.”
The park's entrance, originally slated to be near the township's public works facilities, was changed to allow for better safety and control of closing and opening of the park. However, soon after the presentation, Gwen Lacy, the executive director for the Land Conservancy for Southern Chester County, said that the planned location for the parking lot and other main components of the park need to moved slightly down Bayard Road – adjacent to the public works facility -- in cooperation with the original conservation easement plan for the park.
“This plan has the driveway going through one of the highest protection areas,” Lacy told the board. “We can talk about this and work it all out. It's a great plan. It just needs to be shifted in order to adhere to the easement.”
The board approved the overall concept of the design for Barkingfield Park, and agreed to meet with the TLC to make the necessary adjustments they specified.
In other news, the township has announced that it has upgraded its website. The redesign will give the township access to the most current and innovative tools to better inform its resident and visitors, including integrating social media and the ability for visitors to sign up to receive only specific types of emails and text message alerts.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.