New Garden pursuing plans for St. Anthony in the Hills property
By Richard Gaw
The New Garden Township Board of Supervisors are now accepting proposals from consulting firms to help the township develop a management and master plan for the 137.2-acre St. Anthony in the Hills property, which the township purchased for $1.5 million in December 2018 from St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Wilmington.
All proposals must be received by the township no later than Jan. 7, 2020.
The winning consulting firm will provide assistance to the township's master plan for the site, which will include aspirations to preserve the landscape's natural resources; determine opportunities for the public to access, and determine a timeline of desires capital improvement goals, determine the feasibility of and structural integrity of existing buildings and structures; and determine future financial forecasts and budget for the long-term project.
The acreage is located in the area just southwest of the intersection of Gap-Newport Pike (Route 41) and Limestone Road (Route 7), just north of Somerset Lake, and sits on the headwaters of the Broad Run Creek.
Perhaps the biggest puzzle facing the winning consultant will be to help determine what to do with a property that for many decades served as a sanctuary for inner-city Wilmington children, led by the vision of Father Roberto Balducelli, who was the founder and caretaker of the facility until his death in 2013. In short, it is now a largely unkempt parcel of what was once a child's fantasy land of activity, that includes two outdoor ampitheaters, an Olympic-sized swimming pool, soccer fields, a miniature golf course, horse stables, as well as some residences and several day camp pavilions.
In between, the property features nearly pristine hills and valleys, woodlands and four ponds that vary in size from half and acre to over two acres that once served as local swimming holes for local residents.
The winning consulting firm won't be working alone. One of the firm's representatives will join a township-sponsored steering committee, which will be made up of township staff, township residents, stakeholders and local business owners and technical experts, who will provide direction and oversight of the planning process. In addition, the steering committee will conduct two public meetings that will enlist the ideas and suggestions of the local residents in the creation of the property's future, as well as conduct interviews with no more than 10 key stakeholders in the project.
Once the firm's master plan is completed, it will make a public presentation at a board of supervisors meeting.
As of now, the township's “big picture” plans for the St. Anthony's property call for a community park and conservation area, that will feature active and passive recreation and open space preservation, but before plans are finalized and the shovels go into the ground, the firm will conduct an across-the-board analysis to assess everything on the township's drawing board, as well as develop mitigation strategies; determine implementation costs; identify conservation and non-conservation areas; incorporate the public's ideas; and create safeguards for the protection of those who will use the park.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email firstname.lastname@example.org.