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Chester County Press

Saint Anthony’s in the Park to undergo re-branding

01/03/2023 04:47PM ● By Richard Gaw

Courtesy image           This re-designed entrance will serve as the gateway to New Garden Hills – formerly Saint Anthony’s in the Hills in New Garden Township – that is part of a re-branding effort that will include new signage and the naming of roads throughout the 137-acre park.

By Richard L. Gaw

Staff Writer

Throughout the several decades that Saint Anthony of Padua in Wilmington owned and operated Saint Anthony’s in the Hills as a 137-acre playground for inner-city children in New Garden Township, the legacy of Father Roberto Balduccelli became embedded in the Avondale fieldstone of the park.

Now, through the township’s efforts to re-brand the property in conjunction with a two-phase development plan, Father Balduccelli and all he accomplished there will be heading into the future, beginning with a new name: New Garden Hills.

“Beginning in June of this year, we began to take a hard look at what we wanted to do with our vision of Saint Anthony’s, and we knew that it would never be the township’s intention to just slap on a new coat of paint and put up a sign that said, “Under New Management,’” said Mike Buck, the township’s Parks & Open Space superintendent.

“Our efforts were designed to project a more cohesive image of the park, but without losing its characteristic identity. As we began to make our transition to what is now New Garden Hills, the township wanted to incorporate existing design and cultural elements of what used to be Saint Anthony’s in the Hills.”

‘Father Roberto Drive’

As part of the re-branding, New Garden Hills will include the addition of a signage monument made of Pennsylvania bluestone and reclaimed wood that will welcome visitors at its Limestone Road entrance. The new look will also see modified facsimiles of various design elements that have been in the park since it was owned by Saint Anthony of Padua, as well as the re-naming of several roads throughout: Father Roberto Drive; Isaac Jackson Lane, named for a former caretaker for Saint Anthony’s and home owner in the park; Lafferty Lane, named for a prominent family and landowner in the vicinity of the park; and Marvel Pit Lane and Yellow Clay Lane, in recognition of the natural elements found in the park.

The process of re-branding and re-naming of the park was done through the cooperation of Chris Robinson, a member of the township’s Friends of the New Garden Trails and Open Space Review Board, and members of the Historical Commission that included Dr. Margaret “Peg” Jones.

“The new name – ‘New Garden Hills’ -- connotes a rebirth of the property’s former 50-year use as a nature park for family and kids as well as the township's commitment to preserve land and public access to it,” Robinson said. “The ‘New’ brings with it the historic and natural features of the ‘Hills’ -- the reclusive woodlands, the kaolin clay ponds, the imaginative structures of St. Anthony’s nature park for urban folk, a former swimming hole for township residents during the early 19th century, the 18th century stone house, and remnants of a stone barn.”

Re-naming these roads, Buck said, was a very challenging part of the re-branding process.

For emergency response purposes, we were required by the county to come up with addresses and street names for the interior park roads,” he said. “We received a 26-page Excel spreadsheet that contained nearly 1,200 exiting county street names, and the names that we would select couldn’t start with the first four letters of any existing road or have the same last five letters.

“It was like finding a needle in a haystack, but through a small miracle, four of the five names we came up with were available and approved, immediately.”

Purchased in 2018 from St. Anthony of Padua in Wilmington, the township has spent the last few years collaborating with YSM, a York, Pa.-based engineering firm and township residents to develop a master plan that envisions the park as both a paradise of nature trails and open space and a home for recreational activities.

Park trail system to open in Fall of 2023

Currently in Phase I of the project, the township is taking down hazardous structures throughout the park that include a caretaker home at the park’s Route 7 entrance; a gazebo and fencing; a shed at the park’s northern area near Route 41; several components at the miniature golf course; a paddle boat rental shack; all buildings, fencing, gateways and light posts throughout the park’s aviary; a creekside mosquito oasis structure north of the park’s Greek amphitheater; a day camp building and a puppet theater; and several hazardous trees throughout the property.

In consultation with Natural Lands Trust, Phase I will also design and construct a 1.5-mile nature trail that is expected to open to the public in the fall of 2023 and include expanded parking areas. The project will also include the development of a picnic area and a playground in the northeast quadrant of the property near Route 41, which is scheduled to open in 2024.

Robinson sees the new trail as a key connector to existing township trails.

“Conceivably, the New Garden Hill Trail will connect to the township’s trail system via walkways in adjacent residential communities, through trails on the middle school property and multi-purpose trails to the commercial/residential establishments in White Clay Point,” he said.

“As a community, we really have a lot to be excited about when it comes to the recreational opportunities and the health and wellness component that New Garden Hills will offer,” Buck said. “I’m confident that this re-branding effort will ignite a renewed new sense of ownership and pride in what the township is accomplishing, and reigniting interest to join our committees that will be critical to on-going park maintenance and community engagement.

I think that having a long-term vision alongside our master plan will allow us to better engage with new partners and establish funding opportunities for future park development.”

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