Pre-final master plan for New Garden park shared with residents05/18/2021 04:46PM ● By Richard Gaw
By Richard L. Gaw
By the time the open house event for the reimagined Saint Anthony in the Hills reached its second hour on May 4, more than 100 local residents had arrived, and more were on their way to see how New Garden Township and its consulting team of designers are imagining the future of the 137.5-acre property now owned by the township.
When they arrived, guests saw the township’s vision for the park splayed across tables adjacent to the long-dormant miniature gold course, in the form of a pre-final master plan that imagines an intricate and winding network of mowed trails and meadowed fields; a children’s destination playground; picnic grove pavilions; event lawns; a 20-acre dog park; boardwalk overlooks to ponds; an indoor theater; pickleball courts; a fitness area designated for teens and all of it linked to the soon-to-open Splash Surf Club and a possible outdoor event venue at the park’s Greek amphitheater.
In order to reach that stage, the township’s Saint Anthony’s Master Plan Committee is working in consultation with YSM Landscape Architects; Natural Lands; Recreation and Parks Solutions; Buchart Horn Architects; and Atlantic Aquatic Engineering, Inc.
As Ann E. Yost, RLA, of YSM guided visitors through the possible future look of the park on a large map, she said that the process to get to the pre-final stage of design began about a year ago, when she and her colleagues met with the newly-formed Saint Anthony’s Master Plan Committee.
“We did initial brainstorming, asking them, ‘What are your thoughts?’” Yost said. “We benchmarked with them to get their best thoughts, then did site analysis of the entire property. We had several people on our team – an architect, a naturalist, a pool consultant and a programming director.
“Everyone looked at their own individual pieces of the park and analyzed what was here, and then developed various concepts of how the park could be developed. We presented that to the committee, and from that we created the pre-final master plan.”
Long term, 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.
Randy Geouque was a member of the township’s Board of Supervisors when after several years of negotiations, the board chose to purchase the property for $1.5 million in December 2018 from St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Wilmington.
“Originally, we approached Saint Anthony’s about buying their development rights, and as they talked about it from their perspective, they told us that they wanted to get out from under this property,” Geouque said. “The township was originally going to walk away from the project, but I asked, ‘Why don’t [former township Manager Tony Scheivert] and I talk it out further through with the owners?’
“We struck a deal with St. Anthony of Padua that was reasonable for both parties that has helped get the township to this point, but now, looking at the pre-final master plan, there are so many different components of the design that should draw in a lot of different people from our community, and become a benefit for everyone.”
“Our idea is to come up with a master plan for the park,” said township Administrator Kati Parlier, who has served as the township’s key point person in the design of the new park. “We’ll then meet to consider the feedback that was provided tonight and we’ll also have comment period for the public to review the full document and the map. We’ll then make adjustments accordingly to the public feedback.”
Parlier said that a Phase I plan for the park has already been identified, and that the township is pursuing possible funding from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) and Chester County.
“We hope that the community is as excited about the potential for this park as we are,” Parlier said. “We’ve worked hard to incorporate the feedback of the community and we are excited to open this property to the public.”
To learn more about New Garden Township’s plans for Saint Anthony in the Hills, visit www.newgarden.org/st-anthonys-hills.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email [email protected].