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Chester County Press

Kennett Township cuts ribbon on new park

10/25/2016 12:15PM ● By Richard Gaw
By Richard L. Gaw
Staff Writer

To the more than 100 local residents who attended the official opening Barkingfield Park in Kennett Township this past Sunday, it was more than just showing up at a ribbon-cutting ceremony, or having an excuse to take the family dog out on a blustery autumn afternoon.
It was to help christen a 45-acre patch of earth that will serve as an outdoor sanctuary for the residents of the area for generations to come, and that's just what they did.
In coordination with the township's Barkingfield Park Committee, Land Conservation Advisory Committee and the Land Conservancy for Southern Chester County, Kennett Township welcomed the public to its new passive park, with cinnamon donuts and apple cider, face painting, hay rides and tours of equipment from the Longwood and Kennett Square fire companies. 
The journey of how the township arrived at Sunday's official opening is a story steeped in collaboration with business and conservation leaders.  After purchasing the original 56-acre property from the DeLeeuw family, real estate developer Mike Pia, Jr. and his wife Stephanie stipulated that a conservation easement be placed on the entirety of the property. 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. On Feb. 12, 2016, the township became the official owner of 45 acres that now makes up the park, at a cost of $782,000.
The four-phase plan for the park is currently being developed by Tom Comitta Associates, a West Chester-based landscape architectural firm. Phase 1, now underway, 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.
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 township has also hired well-known trail consultant Larry Knutsen to develop a trail design for the park, which is expected to be completed by Spring 2017.
In his welcoming comments, township board chairman Scudder Stevens thanked both Pia and Comitta for their vision and guidance in establishing the park.
“It's enabled us to create what is now this 45-acre township park, and it shows our continuing commitment to open space, conservation and ecological issues, in order to make this the most beautiful township to live in in the entire Commonwealth,” he said. “We're also appreciative that our two fire companies are here as well, because it shows the commitment and support for the things that the township and the borough are doing, together.”
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, e-mail [email protected]