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Chester County Press

Group shares results of Kennett Greenway survey, resident input

03/09/2021 04:12PM ● By Richard Gaw

By Richard L. Gaw

Staff Writer

Recent citizen surveys to gauge priorities in the continuing development of the Kennett Greenway showed that local residents would like to see the circuitous trail system maintain its natural beauty, provide access to open spaces, connect neighborhoods and continue to provide a broad range of activities for individuals and families.

The results of these surveys – as well as input from two public meetings held in late February – were shared in a presentation given at the Kennett Township Board of Supervisors’ online meeting on March 3.

The presentation, chaired by Christina Norland, executive director of the Kennett Trails Alliance, introduced consultants Jennifer Dowdell, a landscape ecological planner with Baltimore-based Biohabitats and Claire Agre, the principal and co-founder of Unknown Studio, a landscape architectural firm, also in Baltimore. Together, they led a discussion that measured the survey results, provided a timeline of past and current projects and examined the township’s role in the future of what is projected to become a 14-mile continuous trail in southern Chester County.

The bilingual 2021 Greenway Survey, issued online in January, drew 820 responses, 39 percent of whom live in Kennett Township and 17 percent of whom live in Kennett Borough, with 69 percent of respondents falling in the 18-64 age group.

Asked what kind of space they would wish to connect to using the Kennett Greenway, one-third of respondents answered access to “natural areas, preserves and parks,” while 27 percent said they would like to use the Greenway to connect to “exercise and recreation.”

The survey revealed that an even percentage of respondents would use the Greenway for “walking for leisure and exercise” and “being in nature,” and the highest percentage of preference would favor maintaining the Greenway’s “natural,” “scenic” and “family-friendly” environments.

[These results] start to tell us that what folks are looking for in this Greenway is a serene and natural experience, not something with monumental art or iconic sculptural features or super graphics,” Agre said. “People are looking for something that is actually helping us shake all of that stimuli from our every day life. That’s important for us. We’re not looking to add.

“We really want to design this for the broadest group of people for the broadest uses that we can.”

Concerns and desires for future of Kennett Greenway

Some of the key concerns expressed by the respondents included safety, proper maintenance, accessibility, and the projected length of time it will take to complete the entire trail. Among their top desires for the Greenway were to see it develop through the use of multi-use trails, to provide connections to neighborhoods, to incorporate proper security and to sustain the trail network’s natural scenery.

“The survey was very specifically designed to gauge reactions and opinions and the future aesthetic, the future function and the future use of the Greenway,” Agre said. “It was meant to be a vision exercise for the community to begin the paint the picture of what it will be in the future.”

In addition, two community meetings were held on Feb. 25 and Feb. 28 for about 50 residents of Round Hill, Chandler Mill, Hilltop and Falcon’s Lair roads that provided comments on the Greenway, particular in the use of Chandler Mill Road.

At these meetings, those in attendance were polled live and provided the following feedback:

·  31 percent of respondents said they walk, run or bike along the road multiple times a week, and 24 said they use the road every day

·  61 percent said that they plan to use the entirety of the 14-mile Greenway loop when it is completed

·  70 percent of those responding said that it is not a high priority for them to be able to drive quickly along Chandler Mill Road, and a majority called for the implementation of traffic-calming measures along the road

·  More than 60 percent feel it is of great importance to have less non-local traffic along the road

The March 3 presentation also focused on the progress and vision for the western portion of the Kennett Greenway that once completed, will begin north of West Cypress Street in Penns Manor, extend past Pennock Park into the Parrish Trail, intersect with West Hillendale Road and lead to the Chandler Mill Road Trail and the Chandler Mill Nature Preserve.

Norland said that east-west connectors are being planed in conjunction for the Greenway, in partnership with New Garden Township’s Friends of the New Garden Trails, in order to connect West South Street from the Kennett borough line to the New Garden Shopping Center. She said that New Garden is working on a proposed connection at the Parrish Trail that will eventually provide a link to New Garden trails.

The Western Greenway had a busy 2020 when, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the project saw several initiatives get underway, highlighted by the rehabilitation of the historic Chandler Bridge as a pedestrian and emergency vehicle-only overpass that was opened on Oct. 2. The timeline also included the introduction of a design concept for the Magnolia Underpass, and “Get Re-Kennected,” an open house on Oct. 3 that invited the public to explore the Western Greenway and discuss the trail’s master plan with its many stakeholders.

At a Greenway meting held last December, public feedback balked at a preliminary design that would convert Chandler Mill Road to a one-way option. As a result, the township’s Board of Supervisors approved consideration for a two-way design option for the road.

A high priority for Kennett Township

Although the Greenway is planned to connect five adjoining municipalities together – all of whom are creating trail systems of their own -- Kennett Township has placed its expansion near the top of its priorities in the last few years. It appeared in its 2015 Comprehensive Plan, its 2018 Kennett Square Active Transportation Plan and in its 2019 Open Space, Trails and Parks Master Plan and Needs Assessment – and has been listed as one of the township’s three “critical catalyst” projects for meeting its hiking and biking goals.

Moving forward in 2021, the key stakeholders in the Kennett Greenway will conduct a review of preliminary engineering options, hold two additional public meetings on March 18 and 25, and deliver a follow-up presentation to the township board on March 25, and a decision by the board in early April that will determine the next steps for the design of the Greenway.

“[The Kennett Greenway] is very integral to the future vision to Kennett Township as a place where people can recreate in a passive way and in an active way,” Norland said. “The Greenway will help with preservation and stewardship of open space. There is lots of evidence that improved access done in a thoughtful way breeds a public preservation mindset.”

Norland said that continued development of the Kennett Greenway will lead to the restoration of natural resources, particularly waterways on the east and west branches of the Red Clay Creek.

“These waterways are not in great shape, and bringing the Greenway to those areas will provide a tremendous opportunity to improve our water system in this area, so that people can enjoy them, and also allow us to be able to meet our obligations for future generations in terms of water supply.”

Norland said that access to recreation and green space boosts local economies and businesses, as well as prove to be a benefit to the health of area residents.

“Access to nature, exercise, reduction of vehicular traffic – all of this goes to improving the health of our residents and will serve to create a sustainable community in the long-term,” she said.

The Kennett Greenway project is also being undertaken in collaboration with Meloria, a structural engineering firm in Phoenixville, Pa., and McMahon Associates, a transportation engineering and planning firm in Washington, Pa.

To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email [email protected].