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