Musings: Devilish details

As is said, the devil's in the details. Pennsbury Township Supervisor Aaron McIntyre used the phrase last week regarding the proposed Walkable Chadds Ford plan.

Walkable Chadds Ford, as Chadds Ford Live has been reporting for three years, is an idea that, if it happens, would add walking and cycling trails in the village area of Chadds Ford Township, from Ring Road to Creek Road and eventually across the Brandywine Creek into Pennsbury Township at Fairville Road.

As a concept, it sounds great.

People do want the opportunity and ability to walk and bike safely, especially if they have places to walk and bike to and from, places that enhance their lives in one fashion or another. And those places do exist in the village. There are restaurants, shops, a bank, post office and the Brandywine River Museum of Art.

Wouldn't it great for people visiting the museum to be able to walk from there to Hank's Place, Agave or Antica for lunch, buy some stamps, get some flowers or check out some of the new businesses coming to the Barn Shops, maybe go to Brandywine Prime for dinner? Yes, it would.

It would also be good, conceptually speaking, for people to be able to walk or bike from the Brandywine Battlefield Park to those shops and restaurants or the museum. They could walk along Route 1 to the museum and connect to the creek trail, then walk under Route 1 and up to the Chadds Ford Historical Society. Then, if they chose, they could walk down Creek Road back to Route 1.

Those are some of the options for residents and visitors alike should this all happen. Walk it. Bike it. Enjoy it.

But, again, the devil is in the details. Would the proposed trails be safe? It's counterintuitive to think a pedestrian crossing on Route 1 at Ring Road could be anything but dangerous. That said, I think the designers would have a vested interest in making sure such a crosswalk and a trail down Route 1 would be safe to use. No other entity would retain them otherwise. Safety is one of those devilish details.

Another detail is cost. What would it cost to bring these ideas to fruition and, maybe more important, who would pay for it? As Shakespeare said, "There's the rub."

Peter Simone, of Simone Collins, the consultant on the project, has mentioned several grants that could cover the costs and Chadds Ford Township is supposed to apply for the first one sometime in September, Simone said. Still, questions remain, perhaps politically incorrect questions.

Where does the money come from for those grants? Are they from voluntary contributions from philanthropical organizations? That would be fine. Are they from the state? Well, are those grants funded through taxes? I say not so great. Should money taken from people in Altoona, Johnstown or Coatesville be given to affluent Chadds Ford so people here can have walking trails? Or should Chadds Ford Township supervisors raise taxes for the project?

One of the thoughts expressed during all the discussions on Walkable Chadds Ford is that it would be good for the businesses in the village. It certainly could be to their benefit. So what about those businesses ponying up? If Walkable Chadds Ford is gong to benefit them financially, they should be picking up at least a big part of the cost. If the businesses think this is good for them, they should consider it an investment.

Another question or two: Would there be any extra parking in the area should the village become a more popular destination for visitors? If so, where? One of the prime movers behind the project is the Brandywine Conservancy but, when asked early on in the process whether its Potts Meadow property (on Route 1 at S. Creek Road) could be used for the project, the answer was an absolute, "No."

More questions need to be asked and answered before Walkable Chadds Ford idea grows legs, can stand on its own and become a reality, unless some government decides to force it on people.

While there have been no comments posted to last week's story on Chadds Ford Live's website, a repost of the story to Facebook led to a number of comments there. A lot of people like the idea. Others are less than enthusiastic to the point of skepticism over safety and need.

Details need to be sorted out. And those doing the sorting should remember that the village is just a couple of blocks that are split by a major truck route.

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About Rich Schwartzman

Rich Schwartzman has been reporting on events in the greater Chadds Ford area since September 2001 when he became the founding editor of The Chadds Ford Post. In April 2009 he became managing editor of ChaddsFordLive. He is also an award-winning photographer.

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