New Garden Township Park continues to expand
By Steven Hoffman
Rave reviews are coming in for the second phase of the expansion of New Garden Township Park – and it’s not yet even at its prettiest perfection.
“Being a new resident of the township, and a dog walker, I am thrilled to have these wonderful trails literally in my backyard!” Laurie A. Curl[ken mamma1] wrote on the township’s Facebook last December. “Really enjoy the scenery of rolling hills, mushroom farms and the lovely township building!”
“This is awesome,” said township resident Tamara Burns, interviewed while enjoying the park on a pleasant February morning with her dogs Lucy and Sadie. “They love it,” she said of the dogs, adding that the longer, interconnected trail system allows for longer, energetic walks, rather than the old days, when the dogs would recognize her car at the end of short laps and ask to end their jaunts.
[ken mamma2] New Garden Township Park, with entrances on Starr Road and Gap Newport Pike, was established in 1997 on the old Wollaston farm in Landenberg and has been “steadily growing in size and activity ever since,” according to the township website. This second phase essentially fills the 62-acre site with all the major facilities it can handle, according to Kati Parlier, assistant to township manager.
“People now have the ability to play most sports here,” she said. The second phase features more parking, which will help with every event at the park or its buildings, which includes the municipal building and two historic structures. Expansion also allows for Community Day activities to spread out.
The White Clay Soccer Club, which has used the park for five years, is handling maintenance and scheduling of the fields, a trend among area soccer clubs that gives them first dibs on the space and the ability to mold such fields for the more intensive use of a lot of kids running around in cleats.
Club president Mark Edelson said representatives worked with township officials on sizing and grading of the fields, and they’re committed to “seeding, cutting and keeping the fields healthy for athletics.” That’s a more detailed regimen than a government would follow, and they’re also anticipating that they won’t start using the club for their players – 225 in travel, 100 in rec – until spring of 2021, when the grass is well-established. “We’re looking for the long term.”
The first phase of the park included two small soccer fields, a large playground, fitness stations, baseball and softball fields, restrooms, two covered picnic pavilions, a mile of gravel multi-use trails and a parking lot.
The second phase involves a field that can accommodate 11-on-11 soccer games and football matches, another parking lot, a mile of paved trails and paving of the gravel trails. The trails now total three miles curving around hills, sports fields and buildings. A small playground and a concession/restroom building are planned, joining similar facilities on the other side of Lamborn Run in the first phase.
The 38-acre second phase also has environmental amenities. One section along Starr Road remains a dedicated wetland. Two buffers of shrubs and trees line the downhill side of the new parking lot and the border with Landenberg Hunt, the subdivision on the park’s western side.
Three rain gardens should be completed this year. Rain gardens “are saucer-shaped depressions that are planted with moisture-loving native plants,” a sign near the township building explains. “This provides flood control, groundwater recharge and water-cooling benefits while the plants, soil and associated microorganisms remove many types of pollutants – such as pesticides, fertilizer and motor oil – from stormwater runoff.”
All the plantings are native species, and their addition should encourage wildlife in the park, already home to deer, foxes, groundhogs, squirrels, eagles and other birds,
The $855,000 second phase was covered with township funds and two 2018 grants: a $225,000 Chester County Municipal Park and Trail grant, from Chester County commissioners, and a $200,000 grant from the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. The township has applied for a PECO Green Region Open Space grant to cover the cost of more trees, Parlier said.
In 2019, the township also completed restoration and renovation of Lyceum Hall, a mixed-used building that dates[ken mamma3] to 1853 and was relocated to land covered in the park’s first phase. The work allows its main floor to host meetings and other functions. Some parts of the structural and cosmetic work were mundane: repairing holes in the floor. Some parts were intriguing: exposing 19th century graffiti.
Park plans for an amphitheater for community concerts and theatrical events have been dropped, with its leftover hill popular for sledding and exercising, she said.
That change came about when the township purchased St. Anthony in the Hills, a 137-acre site on Limestone Road with amphitheaters, pavilions, stables, barns, a castle and an aviary.
The township in February hired YSM Landscape Architects of York to develop a master plan for St Anthony in the Hills. Officials also plan to appoint 13 people, representing divergent elements of the community, to consider its future. The group should meet a half-dozen times over the next year or so and also seek comments via mailed and online surveys. “People are fascinated with the property,” Parlier said. “It has endless potential.”
[ken mamma2]deleted because it’s outdated: On the day Burns and her dogs visited, the newness of the second phase was apparent in various ways. Netting and straw covered some recently seeded areas, amid young shoots of bright green grass. Where erosion hit bare grounds, small furrows winded down the slopes. Long socks protected some areas from runoff. A few pools of water, due to be amended when rain gardens are installed, awaited stabilization of the slopes. Small trees were given a hand by stakes.