Square Roots Collective developing new demonstration park project in Kennett Borough04/05/2022 04:15PM ● By Richard Gaw
Courtesy photo A stony beach will serve as a signature component of a plan to develop a 30-acre narrow strip of land in Kennett Square Borough into a park tentatively called “Red Clay Park.”
By Richard L. Gaw
There is a 30-acre narrow strip of green space scissoring through the eastern portion of Kennett Square Borough that begins at Kennett High School and extends to Anson B. Nixon Park.
Bordered by Race Street to the west and Dalmatian and Walnut streets to the east, this green space has been distinguished for its gravel trail that borders property owned not only by several private landowners but also by Kennett Borough, the YMCA and the Kennett Fire Company.
In 2020, a consortium of the trail’s stakeholders and owners began a conversation with Square Roots Collective that reimagined the trail as something greater, both in aesthetics, environmental cohesiveness and functionality. It seemed perfectly logical that the idea to redefine and repurpose this community green space had its start at the Kennett Square agency: since it was founded, Square Roots Collective (SRC) has helped foster several area initiatives, all of which have been created through developing partnerships, beautifying spaces and creating sustainable communities.
Further, the idea of improving the trail and the surrounding green space fits nicely within the framework of Square Roots Collective’s Kennett Trails Alliance (KTA), an organization focused on physically connecting the Kennett community through regional trail networks that include the Kennett Greenway, a 14-mile pedestrian and bicycle trail loop that is being developed in partnership with Kennett Township, the Borough, and The Land Conservancy of Southern Chester County, among others. The trail will be part of the Kennett Greenway.
“We began to see an even greater potential for this space, because for the past several years, it has served as the underused backyard of Kennett Borough,” said Christina Norland, the executive director of the KTA and SRC’s community engagement lead. “So we got all of the property owners together and asked, ‘Could something greater happen here?’ We followed up with some initial analysis, determined ecological and restorative goals and explored recreational opportunities.
“This represents the first manifestation of those ideas, in order to see if it will spark the community’s imagination as to what can happen.”
Now, backed by an initial $800,000 investment by SRC and building upon work by community leaders many years ago to establish the trail, the agency is taking initial steps on what would be a multi-year project – tentatively being called “Red Clay Park” – that will directly link Anson B. Nixon Park, the Kennett YMCA, Kennett High School, the Red Clay Room, the YMCA Adventure Park and community pool, and State Street, and
will be proximate to the Kennett Senior Center and the future home of the Kennett Library and Resource Center.
The multi-year project will begin with the construction of a demonstration site, which SRC Operations Lead Luke Zubrod said will serve as a catalyst to layer the concept with more ideas.
“We said, ‘Let’s do a smaller project to begin a community conversation,’” Zubrod said. “One of the challenges in this work is to be very economical with local resources and tax dollars, and getting state grants is a way to do that. If we can make a case that those grants should go here, then we can take the dollars that we may have focused on one area and spread them out in order to allow us to do a greater amount of work.
“If we can turn our original investment into something bigger, then we can get more done.”
The demonstration project will include invasive species removal, erosion control and streambank stabilization, plantings and reforestation and the installation of a paved trail that will be served through lighting. Among the key highlights of the project will be to provide access to an existing stony beach that will invite people to the water’s edge.
The development of the demonstration project will again bring together the Unknown Studio, Biohabitats and Meliora – environmental architects and engineering firms that have provided consulting for the development of the Kennett Greenway. Slated to be constructed in 2023, the project is now in the initial schematic design phase and will then need to go through several permits and approval stages.
The project has already received high marks by the Kennett Borough community. At a recent Borough Council meeting, more than 60 residents voiced their approval of the concept.
“One of the priorities expressed by many has been to see the Borough even better connected and walkable,” said Borough Council President Doug Doerfler. “You can already see that with a lot that has been done in the way of sidewalks, but that only solves one aspect of that connectivity. The other half of connectivity comes from our trail systems.
“When you look at how much concern has been expressed by those on the eastern side of the Borough who want to have easier and safer access to the other parts of the Borough, if there are any opportunities we can explore to make that happen, we will do so.”
Norland said that while the full scope of the park is far from being fully realized, the true architects of the plan will be those who plan to use it most frequently.
“Our work on the Kennett Greenway is a community effort, and when you talk to people about what they hope their community will become it gives us impetus to move their ideas forward,” she said. “One of the exciting parts about this project is that we haven’t yet formed what the amenities of the park will be, all of which will be determined by the community and how they want this space to be used.
“This is the community’s project. We’re here to nurture their ideas and move them to fruition.”
To learn more about the project, visit the Red Clay Park website at https://www.kennettgreenway.com/red-clay.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email [email protected].