Kennett supervisors host roundtable to discuss Anson B. Nixon Park

Approvals given for easement payments, parking ordinance advertising, and bikeway payments


Representatives of the Kennett Area Park Authority, Kennett Square Borough Council, and the Kennett Township Board of Supervisors and manager met on Monday evening to discuss the past, present, and future of Anson B. Nixon Park.

By Rick Marts, Correspondent, The Times

KENNETT — The highlight of Monday night’s “working public meeting” held by Kennett’s Board of Supervisors was a roundtable discussion of Anson B. Nixon Park. The 16 participants in the discussion included Kennett’s three supervisors, the township manager, several Kennett Borough Council members, and several members of the Kennett Area Park Authority (KAPA).

KAPA is the entity that owns and operates the park and whose governing board is chaired by Richard Lyon. Kennett Township and Kennett Square Borough jointly appoint board members.

Lyon opened the roundtable by saying, “The purpose of this meeting is to establish a platform to discuss the park’s history, accomplishments, and goals for the future.” This kicked off a wide-ranging discussion of the park’s value and how far it has come since planning began for the park in 1986.

When KAPA was created in 1988, the park consisted of 106 acres, 27 in the northeast quadrant of the Borough and 79 in Kennett Township. The tract was named “Nixon Park” in honor of Anson B. Nixon who had been a key planner for the landfill that originally occupied the tract. (See for the park’s full history.)

Lyon noted that this is a good point in the park’s life to begin looking ahead to ensure the park’s continued successful viability. He said, “Although we can park almost 80 cars and have a full-time manager, a part-time worker, and a bookkeeper, we still have a limit on the number of activities we can host. For pricing and scheduling, we are beginning to model ourselves on some of Chester County’s parks of similar size to ours.

KAPA Board member emeritus, Eva Verplanck, said that “we have to be aware of the fact that we are accessible to everyone because we are public. It is free to all, except for our special events.”

Other participants noted that Nixon Park is remarkable for three reasons: One, it is immediately adjacent to the Borough, providing easy access; two, the park is managed and operated by a dedicated volunteer board and a few paid workers; and three, the park is only viable with public donations and funding from the township and Borough. It is one of only two parks in the state without a tax base.

Lyon noted that “although we have local government support, we also need public support so that everyone is comfortable and knowledgeable about the park. Over 100,000 people visited the park last year. Much of that traffic is due to the improvements made to the park, such as the basketball courts and the new soccer field, not to mention the existing facilities such as the free disc golf course and bandstand.”

Others agreed with Lyon, saying that “the public needs to become more aware and knowledgeable of the park and what it can offer so that they feel better about responding to requests for contributions. We have practically no overhead and still respond to many requests from diverse sources for all kinds of activities and uses.”

BOS Chairman Scudder Stevens said that he senses an effective level of communication within township government, but he asked whether that was true within the borough. He said, “Each jurisdiction has a newsletter, and the township has an active Facebook page.”

Lyon said that he finds it easier to contact the township than the borough, and that could be due to the Borough manager having more on his plate than his township counterpart. Borough Council President Leon Spencer suggested a Council liaison as a contact point rather than the Borough manager. The group agreed to implement this idea.

Looking ahead, Lyon noted that KAPA has completed a “master plan” and the Board is now working to achieve its goals. For example, the Red Clay Creek banks are destabilizing and silting is a problem.

He said, “To solve the creek problem, we are researching sources of funds, such as a Growing Greener Grant and help from the Red Clay Creek Association. Also, we are in the process of rebuilding the dam upstream that feeds the ponds. The dam burst earlier this year.”

Borough Councilman Dan Maffei recalled that the borough has made great strides in the last 20 years, especially in terms of repairing our fiscal house. “We’ve come from the brink of bankruptcy to being a robust community that strongly attracts new businesses. In that vein, we are also committed to maintaining the park and living up to our responsibilities in that area.”

Stevens concluded the meeting by saying that “it’s amazing we are all here promising to remain committed; to the extent we do that, we will grow in mission and strength. And I want to reiterate that communication is tantamount to success in these matters. I am pledging that we will do that on this side.”

In the business part of the working public meeting, several key actions were taken:

1. Ham and Case properties – BOS agreed to easement commitment letters providing $350,000 to each property.

2. The BOS authorized the manager to advertise for public comment Ordinance 223, “No Parking in Penns Manor.” A township study showed that parking on the street within Penns Manor was not safe because of the narrow roads.

3. The BOS approved Bikeway payments for over $300,000 to contractors for construction-related work. PennDot will reimburse the township for these expenses.

4. For the record, the BOS announced that Dianne Clayton is being appointed as the new zoning officer. A motion to appoint her was seconded and approved unanimously. Clayton has 20 years of experience as a zoning officer in another township.

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