Grand vision, small steps: New Garden shares progress on Saint Anthony’s03/22/2022 04:05PM ● By Richard Gaw
Photo by Richard L. Gaw New Garden Township Parks and Open Space Superintendent Mike Buck provided an overview of projects that have been completed and expected to be completed this summer at Saint Anthony’s in the Hills, at a township work session on March 15.
By Richard L. Gaw
Nearly from the moment the New Garden Township Board of Supervisors approved the funding for the township’s $1.5 million purchase of St. Anthony’s in the Hills on Dec. 17, 2018, the planned future for the property has been an etch-a-sketch consortium of long-range ideas designed to eventually convert its 137.5 acres into a magical place of nature trails, open space and family entertainment.
At the March 15 Board of Supervisors work session, however, two key stakeholders in the park’s planning said that while several initiatives are already underway at Saint Anthony’s in the Hills Park, there are several hurdles still to go before the park will be projected to officially open in either 2024 or 2025.
During a 90-minute presentation, Parks and Open Space Superintendent Mike Buck and township Manager Ramsey Reiner provided an overview of projects that have been completed and expected to be completed this summer. To date, the township has
- Welcomed new tenants-caretakers at the historic White House in the park, as well as begun upgrades to the home
- Identified nearly 500 hazardous trees that will need to be taken down and already removed 100 of them
- Overseen the improvement of street lighting and electrical capability in the park and ordered street signage
- Cleaned brush and other debris at the amphitheater and discussed structural and electrical repairs, lighting, restrooms and ADA accessibility; and
- Identified and addressed safety hazards throughout the entire park, such as sinkholes, exposed and failing drainpipes and stormwater run-off.
“The theme [at this phase] is focusing on the maintenance of the park, infrastructure improvements and safety,” said Buck, who added that during this phase, there will be added police surveillance to enforce that the park is closed.
Buck and Reiner said that the township’s top priority for Saint Anthony’s in the Hills this summer will be to improve accessibility through the park to the Splash Surf Club swimming and recreation facility, which after numerous delays in 2021, is anticipated to be completed later this summer and opened to the public. In addition to regrading a one-way vehicle lane to and from Route 7 and the club, the parking lot adjacent to the swim club will be regraded with gravel and lit with proper lighting.
Reiner said that the entrance to Saint Anthony’s of off Route 7 will serve as the only method of accessing the park for the foreseeable future, although additional access routes are being discussed by township engineers – and with PennDOT -- for possible construction.
Other key priorities for the township in the next few years, Buck and Reiner said, will be to improve the park’s water and sewer infrastructure, make environmental improvements, and create collaborative partnerships with area businesses and non-profit agencies.
“This is a very big opportunity not just for the township but for township businesses and non-profits, so there is a lot of opportunity here – if we take our time -- to partner and collaborate with different groups that will benefit from long-term leases [in the park],” Reiner said.
Reviewing the “big picture” of the multi-phase plan for the park – which also includes a rental venue, playgrounds and a picnic area, a system of trails, a teen fitness center, a revamped miniature golf course, a dog park, an indoor theater and other amenities -- members of the board shared their ideas for what should be prioritized. Vice Chairwoman Kristie Brodowski recommended that the township develop a list of what it determines as safety hazards at the park, in conjunction with the opening of the Splash swim facility this summer.
Supervisor David Unger said that the progress of the park should begin at its western edge -- where the Splash Surf Club, the amphitheater and parking is located – and move eastward toward Limestone Road. He also suggested that the township eventually rebrand the park, beginning with determining a new name.
Board Chairman Steve Allaband pinpointed the main challenge that the township and its supervisors face over the next several years: Managing Saint Anthony’s in the Hills Park against the backdrop of White Clay Point, a projected mixed-use development adjacent to the park that will include 330 residential units and an additional 65,000 square feet of commercial space.
“You will have everything from Sunny Dell Road, Route 41 and Route 7 in one large box, all of which would be in the control of the township and White Clay Point,” Allaband said. “You need to look at that clearly from stormwater, from traffic impact, and from accessibility, and we need to be really cautious and think this through.”
Throughout the meeting, Reiner continued to stress that the park is not open to the public, that safety is the township’s top priority and that the earliest projected opening will not be until 2024 or 2025. She said that the township will continue to hold open houses at Saint Anthony’s in order to elicit more ideas from the general public.
“I know that this sounds pessimistic, but seeing all of these safety hazards and understanding the state of affairs of what is there and what we are dealing with, we want to do this right,” she said. “We want to be safe about it and I’d rather say that we are opening at a later date and do all of the right things rather than open earlier.
“It’s a lot to take on, and that’s not just the feasibility of building but managing this project. The good news is that it gives us time to plan.”
To learn more about Saint Anthony’s in the Hills Park and see a copy of the presentation and a Zoom recording, visit “St. Anthony’s Work Session Update” at www.newgarden.org.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email [email protected].