Long road leads to trail opening

Grateful Dead fans might say “what a long, strange trip it’s been.” Fans of The Beatles might lapse into “The Long and Winding Road.” But people who are into walking trails are likely to say, "It's about time."

Saturday marked the official opening of the Harvey Run Trail in Chadds Ford Township. It was a project done in conjunction with the Brandywine Conservancy and was many years in the making.

In the late 1990s, trails became almost a dirty word in Chadds Ford because of the Rails-to-Trails controversy that led to a former supervisors’ chairman losing his re-election bid in the 2001 primary. But attitudes began to change, albeit slowly.

Open Space Committee Chairman Deborah Reardon, along with township supervisors, township manager and several members of the Open Space Committee welcome the opening of the Harvey Run Trail.

Chadds Ford voters in 2005 approved an open space tax and, a year later, respondents to a survey said they wanted a walking trail in Chadds Ford. In 2007, an Open Space plan was presented that included a trail and, a year later, township supervisors approved a trail “in principle.”

Then in October of 2011, supervisors authorized spending up to $10,000 for a footbridge and 1,125 feet of trail through township property. The state helped out in 2014 with a $110,000 Marcellus Legacy Fund Grant funded by the Commonwealth Financing Authority for the project.

The 0.91-mile trail connects township-owned property with property owned by the conservancy and connects with another five miles of trails along the Brandywine Creek.

The one person who shepherded the Harvey Run Trail process from the very beginning is Open Space Committee Chairman Deb Reardon. In a brief interview a few days before the opening of the trail, Reardon said the relationship between the township and the conservancy was crucial.

“To create an outstanding relationship with the conservancy was important because their goals and ours are on an equal par. That is, we want people outside in nature they can appreciate and respect. We’re one of the few vestiges of township governance that still has a country feel.”

The principle supervisors approved in 2008 became a reality this April 29 with the opening of the Harvey Run Trail, which runs from the entrance to the Chadds Ford Township municipal building parking lot at Ring Road, courses through the field behind the building to the rear section of Potts Meadow, which is Brandywine Conservancy land, and then to S. Creek Road.

Reardon was given the honor of cutting the ribbon. During the ceremony, she said "We want a sense of community, and this is the only way, I think, we can achieve it and protect our environment. That's important to Chadds Ford, the conservancy and Delaware County that our environment is protected on all levels. We're a little unique to Delaware County and I’m damn proud of it.”

Francis DuPont, the last of the three founders of the Brandywine Conservancy and Museum of Art, turns the first shovel of dirt for the 50,000th tree planted by the conservancy. The three sycamores planted in Founders Grove represent the conservancy’s three founders, DuPont, Bill Pricket and George A. “Frolic” Weymouth.

Supervisors’ Chairman Frank Murphy acknowledged Reardon’s efforts by saying she had attended more meetings, spent more time, sent more emails and made more phone calls than anyone else in the township during the last 10 years to make the trail a reality.

But Reardon was not alone in living the long and bumpy history of trails in the township. Current Supervisor’s Vice Chairman Samantha Reiner was there, too, and was fighting for trails and open space before Reardon was appointed to the Open Space Committee. Reiner was that committee’s chairman when supervisors appointed Reardon 15 years ago.

She called the opening of the Harvey Run Trail “A small step in a big universe.” And that bringing the project to fruition was “like pulling wisdom teeth with tweezers.”

She said not having trails in the township always frustrated her.

"We'd go on vacation to bike and hike, and I'd say to supervisors at the time, ‘Why do we have to leave our area and go on vacation in order to be able to walk and recreate on a trail?'"

She still feels frustration over the lack of a larger and wider trail network that would include using the old Octorara Line.

"That rail bed sits there. All of our neighboring municipalities have fixed it up, [but] people stood in the way here then, and people are still standing in the way now. I think [the opening of this trail] is a great step in the right direction and I hope the momentum continues," she said.

Reiner continued to say that efforts such as those in Concord Township — conducting feasibility studies to use the old rail line — is another positive step and hopes it influences what might happen in Chadds Ford.

"I hope it bodes optimism and some energy. I asked if we could please be part of, or work with, whoever it is they're doing feasibility studies with to continue that good effort through to our Rails-to-Trails possibility. And I'm going to ask again. If they're working on it and it comes across Route 202 and connects with our property, I want to be onboard with that, and I believe my fellow supervisors are as well."

Chadds Ford Township Supervisors’ Chairman Frank Murphy, far left, along with conservancy Chairman Morris Stroud, Chadds Ford Township Manager Amanda Serock, conservancy Executive Director Virginia Logan, Francis DuPont and a ghost of others cut the ribbon on the footbridge on the conservancy side of the Harvey Run Trail.

The official ribbon cutting and the opening of the trail on township property followed an earlier ceremony in Potts Meadow, the Brandywine Conservancy property along Route 1 and S. Creek Road. It was held as part of the conservancy’s 50th-anniversary celebration.

Conservancy Executive Director Virginia Logan gave a brief history of the conservancy and how the meadow was slated to be what she called “a hard hat factory” until George A. “Frolic” Weymouth, Francis DuPont and Bill Pricket founded the conservancy and saved that parcel to keep it open.

Logan quoted a lyric line from the old standard “Dream a Little Dream of Me.”

“Birds singing in the sycamore tree, dream a little dream of me,” she said represented Weymouth’s dreams of open space and American art preservation.

As part of the ceremony in the meadow, the rear portion called Founders Grove, where there is a second footbridge over Harvey Run, the conservancy planted three sycamore trees, representing the original founders. The third tree is also the 50,000th tree the conservancy has planted during its 50 years. DuPont, the sole remaining founder, was given the honor of turning the first shovel of dirt.

U.S. Rep Pat Meehan, R-7, was on hand as was Delaware County Council Vice Chairman Colleen Morrone and a representative for state Sen. Tom Killion.

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