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Chester County Press

Editorial: The Genius of Our Open Spaces

09/30/2020 05:27PM ● By Richard L. Gaw, Staff Writer

Frederick Law Olmstead, considered by many to be our country’s first innovator in the design of the public park, believed in the symbiotic connection of what happens when nature meets the unquiet mind that longs for peace.

“The enjoyment of scenery employs the mind without fatigue and yet exercises it; tranquilizes it and yet enlivens it; and thus, through the influence of the mind over the body gives the effect of refreshing rest and reinvigoration to the whole system,” he wrote.

Over the last several years, southern Chester County has seen a consortium of agencies and municipalities roll out the grassy carpet for those who wish to get off the rollercoaster of modern life, at least for the length of a half-day hike.

Year after year, the success of conservation efforts have slowly turned potential development into preservation and trails, and a few recent initiatives and events have been no exception.

  • On Sept. 16, the Kennett Township Board of Supervisors approved a motion that will lock the township in partnership with the Kennett Borough in a joint grant application for a multimodal transportation fund (MTF) in the amount of $1.8 million.

If the grant is awarded, the funding will go toward two key components of the Kennett Greenway Connectors Project: the reconstruction of Birch Street and the construction of the Magnolia Underpass.

  • These improvements would provide local residents with increased access along the Kennett Greenway, a 14-mile network of continuous trails that encompasses five municipalities in Pennsylvania and Delaware, and includes more than 1,500 acres of open space and several parks and preserves.
  • On Sept. 23, more than 200 residents of New Garden Township attended the township’s first public unveiling of the 137.5-acre St. Anthony in the Hills property, whose intricate network of trails showcase the natural splendors of southern Chester County and will serve as the geographical outline for what may become the largest public park in the county.
  • On Oct. 2, in perfect timing with the first hint that the colors of Autumn will soon wash Chester County in a palette of red and orange and brown, Kennett Township will officially reopen the historic Chandler Mill Bridge to bike riders and pedestrians in a ceremony beginning at 11 a.m.
  • On Oct. 3, fresh on the heels of the bridge reopening, “Get Re-Kennected on the Kennett Greenway Activity Trail” will invite individuals and families on a four-hour journey to walk, bike or run down the Parrish Trail and Chandler Mill Road.

Of the ten landscape design tips Olmstead became known for, perhaps his most famous was “respecting the genius of the place,” the idea that each location has unique qualities, both ecologically and spiritually, that should become the cornerstones of each public park.

By this show of commitment by our local boroughs and municipalities – and supported by conservation groups, open space committees, businesses, state and local agencies and private citizens – our township parks have become our new backyards and our town squares, and they become reflections of our best efforts to combine collaboration and vision -- places where all of us become the beneficiaries of that genius.