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Chester County Press

No mention of a State Park

01/18/2024 07:52AM ● By Andy Dinniman

In relation to the issue of whether the recently purchased Strawbridge Preserve and adjacent lands should remain a preserve or be a state park, the history of this purchase needs to be understood. The two legislators representing this area during most of the purchase discussions were myself and State Representative John Lawrence. Let me be clear: there never was any discussion of the purchased land being a state park. In fact, the words “state park” were not even uttered by Harrisburg until 2022.

What I, Representative Lawrence, and others advocated was to expand and connect the federally designated White Clay Creek Scenic River Preserve to the Strawbridge and other land purchases. In so doing, it was our hope and dream to bring about the largest tri-state area of natural open space on the Route 95 Corridor between Washington, D.C. and New York City. It is disappointing, after we all worked so hard on this goal, to witness the state ignoring this hope.

To further appreciate our goal, one has to go back to 1992 when the County Commissioners, including myself, created the first large scale County Open Space Plan. We recognized that some of the land was for parks, some for agricultural use, some for water resources, and some land to remain natural forests and fields with a very soft human impact. The Lenfest Preserve is an example of this approach. Yes, people could walk the trails and relax and view the wonderment surrounding them, but there were not to be buildings, crowds of people, lots of cars and paved parking lots that come with a state park.

In the Maryland portion adjacent to the land currently under discussion, there is not a state park, but a natural resources area. If you want to go to a park, you have the hundreds of acres of the county’s Nottingham Park, which is very near to where the state wants its park.

With the relentless march of development moving west and south across Chester County, and with the increasing dangers of climate change, these areas of natural open space that assure only a light human impact are crucial for our very future.

That is why all of us at the time were so delighted with the creation of the White Clay Scenic Preserve and why, during our discussions with the state over many years, we insisted that the purchase of the Strawbridge Preserve and adjacent lands be connected to the White Clay area and become part of the large tri-state natural open space preserve.

Open space has always been a bipartisan issue in Chester County and, in our current divisive politics, this is truly a gift. Thus, I want to thank Representative Lawrence and his staff for, after my retirement from the Senate, continuing to reach out and keep me informed on a number of issues of mutual concern.

Often public policy discussion and decisions are made in a vacuum and I hope this history will lead to a more informed decision. It was clear from day one that the goal was not a state park, but the creation of a large preserve of open space, with light human impact, that would assure the preservation of our natural resources. This indeed is a noble cause.

Andy Dinniman served as a State Senator from 2006 to 2020 and as a County Commissioner from 1992 to 2005.