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Chester County Press

New Garden shares plans for Phase II of park’s development

02/28/2023 03:20PM ● By Richard Gaw

Image courtesy of New Garden Township                     

Phase II of the development for New Garden Hills, expected to be completed in December of 2024,  includes plans for the installation of a playground, a picnic area, trails, a pickleball court and future sites for day camps and other activities.

By Richard L. Gaw, Staff Writer 

Among the entirety of the New Garden Township staff over the last several months, it can rightly be suggested that Parks & Open Space Superintendent Mike Buck may be its busiest – 137 acres of busy, to be precise.

·  At the township’s Board of Supervisors meeting last September, Buck introduced Phase I of the development of the 137-acre Saint Anthony’s in the Hills Park that spelled out a vision for the project. Located at the southernmost parcel of the park near the former soccer fields, Phase I – now under construction and expected to open to the public this fall – is creating a trail system that will include several kiosks, pedestrian barriers, interpretive signage and parking spaces, at a cost of $50,000.

·  In early January before the board, Buck unveiled a re-branding of the park that gave it a new name – New Garden Hills. In partnership with the township’s Historical Commission, the project will include the addition of a signage monument at its Limestone Road entrance; new signage consistent in design; and 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.

At the board’s Feb. 21 meeting, Buck unwrapped Phase II of the park’s development, which will incorporate significant modifications to the northwest corner of the property.

In his presentation, he introduced a slightly modified version of the original Phase II plan that was estimated at $1.4 million, and included:  

· Removal of hazardous play equipment

· Modifications to the access points to the area

· Construction of a half-mile ADA-accessible paved nature trail

· The installation of 36 parking spaces that will include handicapped spaces

· ADA access to open air gym, two pavilions and recreational features

· A nature-based playground  

· The installation of interpretive education stations, site amenities, as well as lighting, landscaping, signage and related site improvements

· The installation of a 1,328 linear-foot-long riparian buffer and two rain gardens; and

· Stabilization of stream banks in the area

The current plan, estimated between $2.5 million and $3 million, will include the cost of those projects and stream bank restoration and building rehabilitation, contingent on board recommendations.

Volleyball vs. Pickleball: Supervisors approve recommendations

During the presentation, Buck made recommendations for Phase II, all of which were accepted by the board. Rather than follow the original idea that called for the installation of a volleyball court, he suggested that Phase II include a pickleball court. He said while volleyball is not accessible to a lot of skill levels and whose courts are hard to maintain, pickleball is a family-friendly and low-impact form of tennis and a sport that has become the fastest-growing recreational sport in the U.S., as evidenced by the 40 percent growth in the number of regular players in the nation, which now stands at nearly 5 million.

In addition to approving the pickleball court, the board also agreed to Buck’s recommendation that the planned playground’s equipment be made of a manufactured solution rather than natural material. Buck said the manufactured solution option will require lower maintenance and have more longevity.

The board also gave its approval to Buck’s recommendation to make necessary repairs to the stream that meanders the entire length of the Phase II development through the use of streambank stabilization. Its $1.3 million estimate is not only lower than an earlier concept that would completely restore the stream and streambank ($1.72 million), Buck said the option would reduce further streambank erosion and possible encroachment into the park infrastructure.

As a part of the stabilization, the project would remove concrete debris that is currently being used as a makeshift stabilization option and provide proper grading to the streambanks – all of which would create better water quality by reducing pollution downstream.

Open-air gym and day camp 

Buck said that as an expanded component of the Phase II project, plans call for the partial demolition, renovation and repurposing of two existing structures on the property. Estimated between $450,000 and $600,000, one structure would be converted into a possible space for an education center for day camps, a camp program office, a yoga and fitness studio and as a rental space for small gatherings.

The other addition to the project would refurbish an open-air gymnasium – estimated to cost between $150,000 and $400,000 for demolition and construction – that could be a potential site for basketball, floor hockey and handball courts, all of which would be used by the public and as a possible site for local sports leagues.

Buck recommended a partial demolition of the two buildings in order to reduce project costs, in accordance with a 2020 general public needs assessment survey of the park, that gave low priority to the preservation of buildings that date back to the beginning of the park.

Buck said that the timeline for Phase II of New Garden Hills – which is being created in partnership with the Pottstown-based Cedarville Engineering Group, LLC -- calls for a completion date of December of 2024 and an expected grand opening to the public during the spring of 2025.

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