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Chester County Press

Editorial: The virtue of patience

08/01/2023 01:59PM ● By Richard Gaw

It had to someday happen and thankfully it did, and in the process, the truth was unveiled before it became too late.

About midway through the July 17 New Garden Township Board of Supervisors’ meeting, in a presentation by township Manager Christopher Himes and Parks Superintendent Mike Buck, it was revealed that the revised cost to complete the entire, multi-phase development of New Garden Hills will be $30,204,513. The number served as the wake-up call to a township that has spent the better part of the last five years – beginning in 2018 when it plunked down $1.5 million to purchase the 137-acre former Saint Anthony’s in the Hills – frolicking at the big easel of grand plans for the park that was created from a Dear Santa list of wants from local residents and a multi-tiered master plan designed by the architectural firm of YSM.

First introduced in 2021, the project had an estimated price tag of $18 million, and at the time, the former board members – only Steve Allaband remains from that five-member group – were only so happy to sign off on yet another township project that had their names affixed to it.

The problem was that in the ensuing years, while the park’s once-blank canvas of ideas began to slowly resemble a staycation destination, no one bothered to crunch the real numbers -- not the board or the two former township managers -- until Himes and Buck hired the engineering firm of Pennoni Associates to do just that.

It was the folly of a leadership dizzy with achievement to overlook the fact that the price also needed to include the price of demolition; the rehabilitation of buildings; the construction of new buildings; the cost for water, sanitary and electrical service, parking and other vital components of the park’s development.

And yet, rather than fault the township for this oversight, its leaders would be wise to patiently continue to follow the course of the master plan in celebration and in strategy, beginning with the completion of Phase I, which will see the opening of a nature trail this fall. They will be wise to seek collaborations with other governments and outside vendors; to engage the wisdom of their residents; to explore applicable funding; and to further pare down the wish-list of activities, buildings and recreation in order to more clearly define what New Garden Hills is and who it truly was intended to serve.

One of the most often-used responses to stifle the impatience of the restless is Rome was not built in a day. (It actually took ten centuries.) Indeed, some of humanity’s most stupendous achievements have required the gift of time. It took 20 years to complete the Wall of China, the same time period it took to build the Pyramids of Egypt.

It may take decades before the last of the master plan for New Garden Hills is constructed, but imagination on this scale requires time to formulate. Over the course of the following years, the early oversights of this project must be redefined not as errors but as learning moments. True leadership begins with the appreciation of data, of facts, of cold and hard realities. Once that data is compiled, true leadership continues in the form of patience and then and only then, will progress occur.