An oasis in a small town: The simple beauty of Anson B. Nixon Park11/27/2023 12:28PM ● By Gene Pisasale
If you’ve driven through Kennett Square and did not know there was a great place to enjoy the beauty of nature, there’s good news. A park which had its beginnings over 30 years ago is somewhat unknown to the general public, but offers wonderful sights and sounds to refresh any visitor. With hiking paths running alongside a beautiful creek and huge groves of old growth trees, Anson B. Nixon Park has a wonderful story to tell those who visit.
Driving down State Street, you turn right onto North Walnut Street and wind around until you see the yellow metal gates near the green and white Park sign on the left to enter. This cozy paradise is subtle; many people go right by it without knowing they are passing a lovely place to relax and reconnect with nature. Begun in 1993, its heritage includes as much human effort as it does natural beauty. The story starts with local Supervisors who served the area for many years, including Anson B. Nixon. When Mr. Nixon passed away, they wanted to honor his service and dedication to the community. Land which had previously been utilized for landfill operations was purchased for a park. It was extensively rehabilitated by local authorities to make it suitable for public use.
According to their website, the Kennett Area Park Authority (KAPA) was “entrusted with approximately 106 acres of land and a mission to preserve open space, strengthen environmental stewardship and provide free access for public recreation.” Celebrating the 30-year anniversary of the park this past June, KAPA and their volunteers have worked strenuously to showcase this hidden gem. The park includes protected open space which holds walking trails, a lovely pond, a branch of Red Clay Creek and wooded areas, as well as basketball, volleyball, tennis courts, athletic fields, playgrounds, picnic areas, a disc golf course and a bandstand which holds various events.
As it lies a few blocks off the downtown area, some visitors are not aware of the park’s beauty and welcoming environment. That is one thing that KAPA personnel hope to change with a variety of programs and activities which will please the entire family. Take the easy-to-walk hiking trails, roughly 2.5 miles in length which wind through the park. You can stroll past a scenic waterway and through groves of beech trees, some of which are estimated to date back 300 years or more to the time William Penn toured the region after founding his colony. A plaque identifies the Kennett Beech: “The large American Beech tree you see about forty feet beyond this sign is the largest and oldest tree in this woodland. It may have been a young tree at the time of William Penn 300 years ago.”
History lovers have something to enjoy here. A portion of the park lies on property owned by the Chambers family, who lived there in the early 19th century. Lineage of the Chambers family was traced back to William Chambers, born around 1635 in England. Members of the family later emigrated to America and settled in Lancaster County, then subsequently in Chester County. In “Bloomfield: Memories and Records,” John T. Chambers recalls his long family heritage and the history of the land, settlement of which dates to 1817. A plaque within the present-day park notes: “Nixon Park lies on the site of Bloomfield, the home of the Chambers family. John T. Chambers, in his reminiscences about Bloomfield, talks about visiting the “Beech Grove” when he was a child in the 1840s.” In his narrative, Chambers mentions several local citizens who became famous inventors, including Samuel Pennock, who started “a turning mill to make parts for spinning wheels, bobbins to wind yarn on chair rounds and button molds” on the branch of Red Clay Creek which runs through the property. The first mill dates to around 1795. Pennock’s son Moses Pennock later used this mill to produce the revolving horse rake, of which he was the inventor, that “revolutionized the method of caring for the hay crop.” Several generations of the Chambers family occupied the property which now forms a portion of the park.
A bold initiative to restore three historic buildings within the Park is now underway. The Kennett Square Water Works operated here for over a century beginning in 1876. The water works expanded in 1926, adding two buildings to the site. After 1984, the Borough began purchasing water from the Chester County Water Authority instead of making repairs to the three buildings. KAPA has plans to transform the aging facility and make the structures usable again for community activities.
Lovers of wildlife will enjoy a trek through the Park as numerous species have been sighted there. A Great Blue Heron regularly visits the property, looking for fish to feast upon. Brian Winslow, water conservation director at the Brandywine Red Clay Alliance, has conducted creek stabilization work and spotted egrets, bald eagles, hawks and even a green heron there inside the park. You may see some deer roaming the forest; mallard ducks often swim freely on the large pond there. The annual Trout Rodeo is a one-day event which allows people with licenses to fish there for freshly stocked rainbow trout.
Music lovers will enjoy the concerts held at Anson B. Nixon Park. Shows have included performances by the Late Ambitions, the Blues Reincarnation Project and many others, which have pleased guests for years. Their concert series—with food, beer and other beverages available—has proven quite popular, bringing back a variety of new bands every season to create smiles on the faces of concertgoers.
Whether you like taking a stroll in the fresh air, seeing your children enjoying the playground, watching wildlife along a scenic waterway or listening to live music, Anson B. Nixon Park has a lot to offer.
The park is open from sunrise to sunset and free to the public. The Friends of Anson B. Nixon Park is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization created to support the goals of the Park Authority. Attorney Elizabeth Swain serves on the Board of KAPA and supplied useful commentary for this article. KAPA Administrator Sheila Tekavec eagerly provides helpful information for all who want to become involved, which you can do by contacting them at [email protected].
Gene Pisasale is an historian, author and lecturer based in Kennett Square. His 11 books focus mostly on the history of the Chester County/mid-Atlantic region. Gene’s latest book is “Heritage of the Brandywine Valley”, a beautifully illustrated hardcover book with over 250 images showcasing the fascinating people, places and events of this region over more than 300 years. His books are available on his website at www.GenePisasale.com and also on www.Amazon.com. Gene can be reached via e-mail at [email protected].