Residents hear plan for trails, some oppose

Chadds Ford Township residents got a glimpse of a concept plan that could bring some passive recreation and a series of trails to the township. Sheila Fleming, of the Brandywine Conservancy, gave the Open Space Task Force presentation before the Aug. 29 Board of Supervisors’ workshop.

“This is just the beginning of the conversation,” she said.

The plan won’t be finalized until November when it would be presented to the supervisors for a vote. Before that vote, however, comments and concerns from residents would be included to modify what has been developed so far, Fleming said.

She said the draft recommendations come from a public survey, and some interviews conducted earlier this year. What the task force learned was that residents’ priorities include open space and passive recreation with a focus on walking and bike trails. Low end priorities include athletic fields, horse trails and a dog park.

According to Fleming, 90 percent of survey respondents said they leave the township for any recreational activities, including walking trails.

Several trail types are under consideration. Among them are 10-foot wide multiuse trails that would bisect the township east and west. However, those trails would use the old Octorara Rail Road line and be done by Delaware County. A plan to use the old rail line for trails caused a major controversy in Chadds Ford 20 years ago.

Chadds Ford Township Supervisor Samantha Reiner takes notes on comments from residents regarding the open space proposal.

Additionally, there could be a series of 7-, 5- and 6-foot wide trails connecting various destination spots in the township. Those areas include the village, Turner’s Mill and the Harvey Run Trail, the Battlefield Park, Painters Crossing, Route 202 across from the Wegmans development and to the Dilworthtown area as well as the First State National Historic Park.

Fleming repeated herself saying these ideas are all conceptual at this point and there’s nothing definitive in where the trail might be situated.

There are also bike paths considered for Webb, Oakland, Harvey, Ring, Bullock, Heyburn and Smithbridge roads, as well as Route 1, and Brandywine and Hillman drives including Evergreen Place.

The location of trails is concerning to some. One Heyburn Road resident said the rail road line cuts through her property and doesn’t want a trail through her property.

Another resident, Cathy Taylor spoke on behalf of Bob Craig who owns the old farm at Harvey and Oakland roads. In a letter Taylor hand delivered to the township on Tuesday, Craig said one of the proposed maps shows a trail on the circumference of his property.

He said the trail was not shown on a previous draft and that he “vehemently opposes” such a trail.

“The trail proposal is tantamount to a taking without compensation. Your proposal of such an onerous trail and parking lot on my farm and in proximity to private buildings is permanently rejected and permanently forbidden by me,” Craig wrote. “I hereby demand  you remove this trail and parking area from your final Open Space Plan.”

Eric Gartner, of Harvey Lane, supported Craig telling supervisors that he has briefed select U.S. Army officers brought to the Craig Farm to every year.

“They have called this farm a ‘national treasure’ due to its role during the Battle of the Brandywine,” and he  explained that Gen. Nathanael Greene and the 4th Virginia established a counter-ambush on the farm to prevent British Forces from encircling and annihilating Gen. Washington and the Continental Army, which would have ended the Revolutionary War.”

In response to the concerns expressed, Supervisors’ Chairman Frank Murphy said there is no plan to take any property for anything. He said if the board votes to accept the plan, it would be to enable the township to have something in place to further enforce the fee-in-lieu ordinance that requires developers to pay the township money instead of giving open space when they develop properties. He said sometimes the developer doesn’t have open space to give, so the township accepts payment in lieu of property.

When asked what exactly the supervisors would be voting on in November, Murphy said that voting yes would mean the board accepts the final concept, but that nothing would be done unless and until there was money available to do the job.

“There’s no plan to raise taxes,” he said, reiterating it would be a way to use developers’ money and grants. Taxpayer money would come in third.

Questions about costs came up. The current work for the study and development of the plan costs $55,000. But Murphy said the state would reimburse the township $27,500.

Fleming was asked what the cost would be should everything on the current draft be built. She said it would come to about $8 million but added that the county would pay about $3.5 million to $4 million to build the east-west trail across the township.

The current proposal, a 50-page report, is expected to be up on the township website by the end of next week. Fleming said. There will be a public comment period through Sept. 21. Then a final draft plan would be finished by Nov. 7 with a possible adoption on Nov. 28.

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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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