Editorial: A new sign for New Garden Township
● By Richard Gaw
Gertrude Stein, Everybody's Autobiography (1937)
Perhaps it was easy – and rather pedestrian – of Gertrude Stein to use these words to compare her Bohemian life in 1920s Paris to her native Oakland, which she said had lost the qualities she had found endearing as a child, but ever since her phrase first appeared in the American lexicon nearly 80 years ago, “There is no there there” has taken on a variety of interpretations and applications, perhaps none more lasting than when defining a particular place. Generally, the phrase has served as a finger-point to a city, town or community that lacks individuality, aesthetics, or a connection that binds its people, its commerce and its meaning together.
For as much as New Garden Township is defined by its rolling landscapes, its open spaces and trails, its artists and artisans and the ingenuity of its residents, it suffers from the aftermath of what happens when functionality swallows beauty.
Nowhere is that more profoundly seen than on the Route 41 Corridor that scissors through the township like an ugly reminder of progress. It has been seen at the cumbersome slog of an intersection where Baltimore Pike meets Newark Road. It has been seen at the tinker-toy link of trailers that have served as the temporary home of the township's police force – and, for the past year, the Southern Chester County Regional Police Department. It has been seen in the inability of Toughkenamon to be acknowledged as anything but a dusty and neglected point between driving destinations.
Everything, however, is about to change.
Through a commitment from Pennsylvania’s Comprehensive Transportation Funding Plan, the township will receive $2 million to help pay for improvements to the intersection of Baltimore Pike and Newark Road. This project calls for reconstructing, realigning and widening the intersection to include new turn lanes, increasing turning radius, modernizing traffic signals and installing ADA-compliant sidewalks and crosswalks. In addition, State Sen. Andrew Dinniman recently announced that he has secured an additional $600,000 in state funding for this project.
The township and the regional police department are in the final design stages of a stunning, new police facility that is proposed to be constructed on the exact site of those trailers.
The troublesome intersection of Newark Road and Route 41, scheduled to be completed this spring by PennDOT, will widen the travel lanes; resurface the intersection; add left turn lanes; remove right turn lanes on Newark Road to improve safety; upgrade the existing traffic signal; install a new crosswalk, pedestrian push buttons and ADA curb ramps; and install new guiderail, drainage and stormwater management features.
Perhaps the best news of all is coming from Toughkenamon, where the Harvest Ridge Winery will open a new tasting room on Newark Road. It's part of an effort by Chuck and Chris Nunan, the owners of the winery, and Kristi Wyatt, the winery's manager, to spearhead efforts to create business opportunities in Toughkenamon, in order to create a sense of place there.
While these developments are right in keeping with the intentions spelled out in the township's long-range Comprehensive Plan, we place another task in their To-Do list, that proposes the construction of a very large and prominently-placed wooden sign – perhaps at the entrance to the New Garden Township Park, or near the new police facility – that reads:
Welcome to New Garden Township
A Cherished History, A Unified Community
Ultimately, whatever the sign will read, express, honor and recognize will be best determined by the cooperation of the township's historians, its leaders and its many volunteers, not by its community newspaper. In the end, however, the contents of this sign will help give New Garden Township – its people and its progress – a sense of definition and yes...help to put a 'There' there.