Kennett Trails Alliance partnering with Penn Trails to complete 14-mile Kennett Greenway
By Richard Gaw
For years, efforts to create a network of public trails in Kennett Township have been strengthened by partnerships, which now include Kennett Township's Trails & Sidewalks Committee and the Land Conservation Advisory Committee, the Kennett Square Borough and several private non-profit organizations, including the the Land Conservancy for Southern Chester County (TLC).
On Aug. 7 at the Kennett Township Building, another partner in the process was formally introduced to the public for the first time, even though they've been in the collaborative network for awhile.
During a public presentation, Penn Trails, LLC shared its ideas for the continuing development of the Kennett Greenway Shared Use Path & Trail System, a 14-mile trail that, when completed, will snake its way through the township.
Headquartered in Carlisle, Pa., Penn Trails LLC is an active member of the Professional Trail Builders Association, who have provided 35 years of guidance and direction to the creation of trail and paths, in collaboration with towns and municipalities. The organization has helped to assess, conceptualize, plan and construct hundreds of miles of trails in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and Ohio.
In his introductory remarks to the audience, Mike Bontrager, chairman of the Trails & Sidewalks Committee, said that the committee has been working with Penn Trails, LLC for the past three years to eventually complete the trail.
The Kennett Greenway currently has 6.5 miles of existing trails and an additional 1.8 miles that are in the planning stages or are about to be developed. Beginning clockwise at its northernmost point, the completed trail will begin just south of Route 1, travel past the KAU Little League fields and through Anson B. Nixon Park, extend through the east side of the borough and then veer south of the Legacy sports fields. It will then extend slightly southeast across East Hillendale Road and to the Stateline Woods Preserve, and slightly over the state line into Delaware, where it will intersect the Marshall Bridge Preserve and Auburn Valley State Park in Yorklyn.
From there, the trail will reach its southernmost point near the Mason-Dixon monument, and veer north through the Chandler Mill Nature Preserve, the Bucktoe Creek Preserve, the Parish Trail and past Pennock Park, where it will travel through the western end of the borough to just south of Route 1.
Penn Trails, LLC project manager Amy Lutsko introduced the master plan of the project that will serve as a “guiding document” to ultimately link the greenway in a contiguous, unbroken chain. She said that the objectives for the master plan are to build and design a project that will be executed by the township, and connect it to neighboring communities like the borough, East Marlborough Township, and New Garden Township, as well as county-wide corridors like the Brandywine Greenway and the Mason-Dixon Trail.
Lutsko said that each trail will be between eight and ten feet wide.
The greenway will continue to only be constructed on public lands, public right of ways, private trail easements and non-profit land trusts, and traverse natural resources like streams, wetlands and fields.
The first steps that Penn Trails LLC will take toward the completion of the trail will be to create an action plan for prioritizing each segment of the trail; identify the cost of each trail segment; and identify significant natural, constructed and critical features along the trail.
Lutsko said that a major component of the plan will require the need to be in compliance with local land use plans; state, county and township plans; historical and cultural resources; existing trails and sidewalks; and how each segment is and will be funded.
As part of their involvement in the project, Penn Trails, LLC will also recommend trail connections to community assets and other trail systems, signage placements and barriers, trail heads and pavement markings.
Lutsko stressed the importance of enlisting stakeholders in the project. To assist Penn Trails, LLC in “the clarity, information, insight and review” of the master plan, the township has created a study committee, made up of nine members of several other township committees.
“It is absolutely critical to create community development, in order to advance and implement the vision of the Kennett Greenway. It's all part of a master plan,” said Lutsko, who added that additional public meetings will be scheduled in the coming year.
Right now, Lutsko said there are five parts of the greenway that have been funded and are under full or partial construction, and there are eight locations that are currently in the conceptual design stage. She said that Penn Trails, LLC expects to complete its final master plan by the end of October, as well as explore funding sources.
While the vast majority of the greenway does – and is proposed to – slice through natural areas, one audience member remarked that a portion connects with some more residential/industrial locations. She asked if there would be any efforts to spruce up those areas.
While Lutsko said that the idea will likely be included as a recommendation on the master plan, Bontrager said that beautifying these pockets along the trail could be achieved by the work of volunteers.
“Could people come to us and tell us, 'Hey, we want to help'?” Bontrager said. “If people want to come and join in, that's fantastic, and we would welcome that.”
From an economic standpoint, Bontrager said that a public trail system like the Kennett Greenway not only connects communities, it's an advantage for homeowners.
“Statistics show us that home values go up when you have proximity to a trail system, as well as a better quality of life. The more that we're experiencing the beauty of what we have in this township, the better off we are,” he said. “Trails are becoming the most desirable amenity for every community.”
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kennett Greenway Study Committee
Michael O’Brien, Kennett Township Administration
Michael Guttman, Sustainable Development Office
Kathryn Pearlstine Freilich, Sustainable Development Office
Jeff Yetter, Land Conservation Advisory Committee
Mike Hanford, Environmental Advisory Council
Marla Palmer, Planning Commission
Abbie Kessler, The Land Conservancy of Southern Chester County
Tom Janton, Kennett Trails Alliance
Rachael Griffith, Chester County Planning Department