Deteriorating bridge, parking safety concerns, liability issues . . . Why spend taxpayer money on open space and not maintain?

Back on November 15, the Tredyffrin Township’s Board of Supervisors agenda included awarding the Swedesford Road Open Space bridge repair contract. (The lowest qualified bidder was Bill Anskis, Inc. in the amount of $84,655.50.)  This bridge repair has been on the Township capital projects list for a long time and had finally found its way to the top. The Swedesford Road Open Space property is located directly across the road from my house, so I am acutely aware of its usage and its associated parking issues for anyone attempting to use this Township open space.

I spoke at the November 15 supervisors meeting to explain the Swedesford Road Open Space usage, particularly during spring and summer trout fishing season.  Swedesford Road is a highly traveled road and I assumed that once the liability issues to the township were understood, this project would move forward.  In fact, in the township’s five-year plan, improvements to the Swedesford Road Open Space project specifically state, “bridge and parking lot safety improvements”.  Additionally, the necessary repairs needed for the Swedesford Road Open Space bridge and parking improvements is included in the implementation of the latest Township Comprehensive Plan. Rather than approving the Public Works project, the supervisors voted to pass it to the Parks Board for further discussion.

The Parks Board met last week and the Swedesford Road Open Space bridge project was on their agenda for discussion.  It is my understanding that the Parks Board voted unanimously not to support the bridge repair and parking safety project.  I simply do not understand. Either the members of the Parks Board did not visit the Swedesford Road site (and see the deteriorating bridge and existing parking liability issues) or they are choosing to follow the lead of some of the supervisors. But it does surprise me that members of the Parks Board would not support the needed repairs and maintenance of one of the parks they are appointed to protect.  As an appointed member of the township’s HARB (Historical Architectural Review Board), I liken their decision to . . . me not supporting the historic buildings in the township. I guess I do not understand the Parks Board motivation. 

If the township (1) supports open space through purchase of property and (2) advertises the use of the open space and parks, then (3) doesn’t the township have a responsibility to maintain the property so that it is accessible and safe for the residents to use? 

Back in 2006, there was a firestorm of debate over the purchase of the Swedesford Road property (and its price tag).  The purchase price  for the 5.7 acres of open space was $825,000. However, a Chester County grant paid for more than half the cost.  The Swedesford Road Open Space ordinance in 2006 stated the property was to be “utilized perpetually for park, recreational and natural-resources conservation purposes.”   Many in the community thought that the price was too high for this property but that debate is long gone . . . the taxpayers own the property and it should be accessible for use.  

It is also important to note that the Swedesford Road Open Space project is a capital expense and not included in the township’s operating budget.  The project is funded through bond and grants money and would not affect the supervisor’s passing of the 2011 budget.

In reviewing the agenda for the upcoming Board of Supervisor meeting on Monday, the Swedesford Road Open Space bridge repair and parking improvements is listed.  With the reinforcement of the Parks Board member’s unanimous vote not to move the repair project forward, it is doubtful that the supervisors will approve this Public Works project.

I do hope that the supervisors recognize that there is a liability issue for the township by choosing not to repair the bridge or improve the parking situation. Residents see the township’s sign ‘Swedesford Road Open Space’ and attempt to pull off the road on to the open space property.  With no room to turnaround, drivers are often forced to back out on to Swedesford Road . . . a risky proposition!

If the supervisors are not going to repair the bridge and improve the parking, I suggest that the township remove signage and close the area of Swedesford Road Open Space to discourage visitors.  However, before taking down the Swedesford Road Open Space sign and closing the area to public use, perhaps the township supervisors should notify Senator Andy Dinniman and Commissioner Carol Aichele.  Chester County dollars through a grant were used to fund this open space purchase and their names appear on the sign!

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Additional notes:

Following the November 15 Board of Supervisors meeting, an article, ‘Tredyffrin has its own bridge to nowhere’ appeared in the Mainline Media News newspaper – here is a link.

For those that are unfamiliar, I have included some photos of the Swedesford Road Open Space property – the bridge and the parking area.  In the last few weeks, there has been a traffic accident at the Swedesford Road Open Space where the guard rail has become dislodged.

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12 Comments

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  1. I drive on that stretch of road nearly every day. The road is already dangerous but I have had several near misses with cars that were parked in the open space. There is no place for the cars to safely park so they are parking on the shoulder and sometimes on to Swedesford. Patty is right the cars can not turn a round. I could not believe that the township spent the $$ to buy the land but they did. So now can it be safe for people to use — and safe for the drivers that are on Swedesford.

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  2. We would be throwing good money after bad if any tax dollars were spent improving this space…. I could not believe it was even suggested to spend $85K to repair the bridge in 2011….

    Maybe someday when the budget can afford it.

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  3. I have a question…not exactly related to the bridge and open space… but does anybody know anything about the Woodlynde School taking back West Valley Park. Why and how? The park had been leased to the Twp.

    Thanks. Christine

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  4. I’m chair of the Park Board and I have inspected the site. Fixing the bridge is only the beginning of additional costs. Cleanup of trash and police checking parkers at night are only two. The site is small and I don’t think it lends itself to sports activity or extensive walking. Making space for cars would require removal of trees and the creation of more impervious surface close to the stream. Regardless of where the money comes from, I’m sure there are better uses in these times . I would agree with your comment about closing access.

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  5. Access should be closed to this space – open space can be just that – open space, preserved. To improve this space would be a blatant waste of taxpayer dollars.

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    Pattye Benson Reply:

    It is my understanding that under the Chester County grant arrangements with the township, this property is to remain accessible to the residents and therefore can not be closed. Or, the township could return the $400K+ grant money back to the county and then close it.

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  6. I am not a supporter of repairing or replacing the bridge, but I find it amazing to watch Paul Olsen at the meeting last night take such issue with the idea of spending $85,000 to repair the bridge. This is the same Paul Olsen who voted to spend $825,000 taxpayer dollars to purchase the 5 acres in the fist place….. Paul please explain the complete disconnect in your thinking?

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    Give it a rest Reply:

    He’s 80 years old. He and Joe Paterno have a different viewpoint about reparing old things…see if they add a guaranteed 4th vote to the board next…though Mrs. Benson seems to be saying that John D. was the fighter on this one.

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    Passerby Reply:

    I have no idea what you are talking about….

    My point was that Paul was okay spending $825K taxpayer dollars on the park a couple years ago but was adamant on Monday about NOT spending the $85K on the same piece of largely unused and minimally useful space. These are not consistent positions.

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  7. That Swedesford land deal was a joke. From the mouth of a Philadelphia Inquirer reporter when she witnessed Judy D. with the buyers several days after the sale: “There was a big high five. They all seemed to be overjoyed by what was clearly a political deal.” Believe it or not, it’s up to you. But that is the truth. Your Republican supervisors handed your tax dollars over to Republican political contributors because they made a bad investment and wanted to get out of it. End of story.

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