Bark­ing­field Park is now open to the pub­lic

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - LOCAL NEWS - By Matt Free­man For Dig­i­tal First Me­dia

KENNETT TOWN­SHIP >> In a lot of ways it was like any other au­tum­nal out­door cel­e­bra­tion on Oct. 22 at 557 Ba­yard Road.

Peo­ple ate dough­nuts and drank cider, dogs barked at each other or lolled on the grass, and a fresh breeze hissed in the mul­ti­col­ored leaves above the crowd.

But it wasn’t your typ­i­cal tail­gat­ing event. One guest hugged an­other and said, “What a great day for the town­ship!” Land­scape plan­ner Tom Comitta was hand­ing out Mardi Gras beads. And in fact, the guests were all stand­ing on what was, in any real sense, the guest of honor—the land un­der their feet.

Af­ter a year and a half or so of ef­fort, Kennett Town­ship had done all the work nec­es­sary to of­fi­cially open Bark­ing­field Park, the first park it has cre­ated un­der its sole au­thor­ity. (Nixon Park is lo­cated in both the town­ship and Kennett Square.)

Scores of peo­ple were on hand, many of them as­so­ci­ated with the town­ship, the landown­ers in­volved, the de­sign­ers or the en­vi­ron­men­tal groups who also helped cre­ate the 45-acre park.

“This is a very im­por­tant day for us,” said Scud­der Stevens, chair­man of the town­ship board of su­per­vi­sors, as he pre­pared to cut the rib­bon at the park en­trance. “It shows our con­tin­u­ing com­mit­ment to open space, and to con­ser­va­tion, and eco­log­i­cal is­sues for mak­ing this the most beau­ti­ful town­ship to live in in the whole com­mon­wealth.”

Then Stevens, ac­com­pa­nied by Vice Chair­man Richard Leff and Su­per­vi­sor Whit­ney Hoff­man, cut the rib­bon as the crowd cheered. The event con­tin­ued with more hu­man and ca­nine so­cial­iz­ing, face-paint­ing and bal­loon an­i­mals, hayrides, and trips aloft pro­vided by the Kennett Fire Com­pany’s new fire truck.

The park orig­i­nated in ne­go­ti­a­tions that be­gan about a year and a half or more ago be­tween the town­ship of­fi­cials and the own­ers, Michael Pia Jr., Stephanie Pia, and the Deleeuw fam­ily. The town­ship agreed to use $782,000 of its open space funds to pay for the 45 acres the park now oc­cu­pies. The Pia fam­ily pur­chased the orig­i­nal home and the 11 re­main­ing acres from the 56-acre to­tal par­cel.

The town­ship worked with its Land Con­ser­va­tion Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee and the Land Con­ser­vancy of South­ern Ch­ester County to put the land un­der a con­ser­va­tion ease­ment that will pre­serve as open space the park area and the other 11 acres.

Town­ship of­fi­cials think they could pos­si­bly get a large per­cent­age of the pur­chase cost re­im­bursed through grants from the county and state.

An­other fund­ing source is the town­ship’s use of its new trans­fer of de­vel­op­ment rights or­di­nance in the process of cre­at­ing the park. In essence, the or­di­nance rec­og­nizes that prop­erty own­ers

who pre­serve prop­erty as open space have given up the right to build on that prop­erty.

The or­di­nance al­lows them to be rec­om­pensed by sell­ing that right to a de­vel­oper who can then ex­ceed the nor­mal build­ing den­sity in a spec­i­fied area by a given amount. The own­ers are com­pen­sated for the loss of their own build­ing rights, and the de­vel­op­ment that might have hap­pened in a ru­ral set­ting is re­lo­cated to a more heav­ily built area where it will be more ap­pro­pri­ate and less in­tru­sive.

Town­ship Man­ager Lisa Moore said at a town­ship meet­ing in Fe­bru­ary, when plans for the park were first an­nounced, that Michael Pia bought the de­vel­op­ment rights for the en­tire 56 acres and will ap­ply them to a mul­tiuse project on North Wal­nut Road.

Cur­rently the park in­cludes large grass-cov­ered ar­eas en­closed by rows of hard­wood trees. A large map mounted on a sign at the en­trance lists the next steps in the park’s de­vel­op­ment.

As Moore ex­plained dur­ing the open­ing event, the first steps this fall in­volve build­ing two dog parks for both large and small dogs and plant­ing trees for an or­chard. Fall plans also in­clude a but­ter­fly park, a meadow, and a park­ing area.

In the spring, the town­ship will put in perime­ter trails and plant more wide­spread mead­ows and sun­flower gar­dens. It will build com­mu­nity gar­dens if jus­ti­fied by de­mand from the pub­lic.

The park, which can be reached from the en­trance to the town­ship main­te­nance garage on Ba­yard Road be­tween Hil­len­dale and Rosedale roads, is open dawn to dusk.

MATT FREE­MAN — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Lisa Moore, Kennett Town­ship man­ager, points to the sign invit­ing vis­i­tors to the new Bark­ing­field Park.

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