$1.5 Million Designated for Tredyffrin’s Wilson Farm Park Updating – Who’s making the Decisions and Where’s the Input from the Township Park & Rec Board?

In the last few days, I have received emails, texts and phone calls from concerned township residents regarding the plans underway for the Wilson Farm Park Master Plan.  It turns out that the more I learned about the situation, the more troubled I have become – hence the need for today’s post.

For many residents in Tredyffrin Township, the opening of the award-winning Wilson Farm Park in 2004 was a very special time.  Located in Chesterbrook,  the 90-acre recreational facility quickly became the jewel of the township, offering sports fields,  picnic areas, pavilion, putting green, amphitheater, tot lot, etc.  The Fourth of July fireworks, Community Day and the Summer Concert Series are all held at Wilson Farm Park and enjoy tremendous support from the community.

Last fall township supervisors approved a $7M municipal bond initiative. With a three year window to use the funds, the bond money was to go to a variety of needs, including township building improvements, road and street repairs and our community parks.  With the aging infrastructure of Wilson Farm Park showing a need for general maintenance and updating it was good news that $1.5 million of the bond money was earmarked for township parks.

Over several supervisor meetings, discussion evolved about the use of the bond money, including Wilson Farm Park. I noted in a review of the November and December supervisor meetings, that a subcommittee (Jack Trimmer, Troy Logan and Meg Hamilton) of the Parks & Rec Board was approved to work on the bond funding usage for the parks. Understanding that the Parks & Rec Board is integral in determining how the $1.5 million would be spent in the township parks, their voices would be critical in the process.

At the November 18 meeting, the supervisors approve a proposal for Simone Collins Landscape Architects for $21,750 for the Wilson Farm Park Master Plan. There was no mention in supervisor meeting minutes about a request for proposal (RFP) so the specific scope of work is unclear. However, it is noted that Simone Collins is well respected and is who designed the original plans for Wilson Farm Park in 2003/4.

Fast forward and the next thing we know there is an Open House this past Monday, Jan 13 in Keene Hall, 7 PM to discuss the Wilson Farm Park Master Plan. Posted earlier on the same day on the township website is a ‘Wilson Farm Park Master Plan Survey’.  Several residents whom contacted me complained about the lack of notification of the meeting and therefore poor attendance.

At the meeting, Simone Collins delivers a complete presentation for the Wilson Farm Park Master Plan. As detailed in the PowerPoint, the team includes Simone Collins personnel as well as Spotts, Stevens & McCoy engineers. The Simone Collins plan includes many needed updates and routine maintenance in addition to some “new” features including the transformation of the putting green into four pickleball courts.

All of this brings me to the point of this post – many questions and few answers.

Where is the input from the township’s Parks & Rec Board on the Wilson Farm Park Master Plan, specifically the subcommittee that was established to work with the consultant?

This appears to be a much-evolved master plan for Wilson Farm Park, when exactly did this work begin? In addition, since the members of the township’s Park & Recreation Board have not had a seat at the table, who exactly is leading the charge for the township?

It was my understanding that the $1.5 million was to be spent on updating existing park infrastructure so where did the idea to transform the putting green in to four pickleball courts come from?  Not saying that pickleball courts are not a good idea; but if the Parks & Rec Board did not recommend it and the community has not yet weighed in, where did the idea come from? Not to mention, that the chosen location of the “new pickleball courts” is right next to the folks who live in Newport townhouses. It is no surprise that a number of the residents living next to Wilson Farm Park are very upset about the proposed plan and have contacted me!

It appears that this is a “cart before the horse” situation – the township now has a new Wilson Farm Park Master Plan proposal without any input from the members of the Parks & Rec Board and without the results of the citizen survey.  According to the Simone Collins timeline contained in the presentation, the Wilson Farm Park survey is to be available until approximately Feb. 29 yet it lists the date of March 1 as “Plan Complete”. It is important that the community is involved in the process of spending funds for park development/improvement, but is that really happening here.

According to the Legislative Code of Tredyffrin Township, § 138-5  Powers and duties of the Park and Recreation Board, “The Township Park and Recreation Board shall have general supervision of all Township parks, and all maintenance thereof, including replacements of property and equipment therein. ..”  so why are they not involved in this process?

How is it possible that the township can spend $1.5M in the township parks without input from the Parks & Recreation Board?  If memory serves me correctly, the $1.5M bond money was earmarked for “parks” and not just for Wilson Farm Park. There are 12 parks in Tredyffrin Township, yet there is no mention of money going anywhere but to Wilson Farm Park. Is Simone Collins working on the other parks too?  Or is the complete $1.5M going to Wilson Farm Park?

On the Board of Supervisor agenda for Tuesday, Jan 21 is a “motion to approve proposal from Simone Collins for Wilson Farm Park Master Plan”.  Is this “proposal” the PowerPoint presentation that Simone Collins presented on Monday, Jan 13? Are the supervisors approving a plan without input from Parks & Rec members? In addition, what about results from the citizen survey which does not end until Feb. 29, how does that factor into the “proposal”?

If the township has three years to use the $7M bond money, why is there a rush to push through $1.5M spending on Wilson Farm Park Master Plan. Wouldn’t it make more sense to slow the process, involve the Park & Rec Board, review the results of the Wilson Farm Park Citizen Survey, hold a public forum for community discussion and THEN take the next step on approving a Wilson Farm Park Master Plan.

It is important that the community is involved in the process of spending funds for park development/improvement. Our voices matter and it is imperative that government be transparent and honest with the public, especially when taxpayer dollars are involved.

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17 Comments

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  1. Furthering the confusion, the cover sheet of the Wilson Farm Park Master Plan Survey states February 29 as the cutoff but in other places it says the survey will be available until February 15. Obviously, that’s another question — not sure which is the correct date.

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  2. I live on Newport Drive in Chesterbrook, right next to the park and had no idea that there was a plan for pickleball courts next to me. With all the property in Wilson Park surely there’s a place better suited for this high level of activity in stead of next to residences. And what about the special lighting required for pickleball, has anyone looked at that? Other than fill in the survey, what else can I do?

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    Pattye Reply:

    I suggest that you contact your HOA president and attend the supervisors meeting on Tuesday night to ask your questions.

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    David Mackey Reply:

    Go to Board of Supervisors meeting on Tue 21st at 7pm. tell your neighbors too!

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  3. I visit Wilson Park 3-5 times a week and have been since 2010. Back then, hardly anyone used the fields. Coaches held for profit clinics on the fields and organized sporting events brought out spectator parents and family members but other than that, the fields and the Park were mostly empty. Not now-whole different dynamic since the new townhomes went up. The Park is busy-all the time- day and night. From 8 or 9 in the morning until past dark. Teeming with little kids, babies, parents, old people, young people—you name it—it’s there. The activities vary from pick up games (soccer, cricket, volleyball) to walking, running and organized sporting events.

    My guess the plans are being driven by the people who use the Park. If you haven’t visited lately, go over and have a look. It’s a very vibrant, positive and high energy place to be—-especially in the early evening summer months.

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  4. Sounds like another situation where a few well connected citizens who want the courts for their own use have influenced this plan at all citizen’s expense and without broad input. So, so typical of the township (and the school board as well.) Am getting increasingly disgusted at the local decision makers.

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  5. Thank you for your detailed questions & prompting citizens to ask for answers and transparency from our elected officials and paid staff members of the township. There has been a lot of rushing to decisions from the township before the community it serves has clarity on the project and clear consensus from volunteers and citizens that are invested in this township and their own neighborhood. Count me in to be there at the next few meetings.

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    Pattye Reply:

    Yes, it is concerning that so much of this proposal has been done without the input of the community. And those volunteers who generously contribute their time and talents to serve on township boards/commissions need to feel valued and their input considered. It isn’t that I’m particularly opposed to any of the Simone Collins proposal/plan — I just want it to be representative what the residents want.

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    Easttowner Reply:

    Pattye,

    I agree with what you say above:

    And those volunteers who generously contribute their time and talents to serve on township boards/commissions need to feel valued and their input considered.

    Being knowledgeable is a double edged sword. When you’re knowledgeable because that’s what you do, you’re going to vote in favor of those who do what you do.

    Citizens need Board members/Commissions to represent their interests, what’s beat for the community as a whole.

    I don’t know who is on the Parks/rec commission and maybe the members are a hodge Podge of local residents with a wide variety of talents and backgrounds, (hope so) but when all members of a Board/Commission have the same talents and backgrounds, they’re going to vote in favor of what they all do and if they benefit from the vote, all the more reason for them to vote in favor of each other rather than listen to the many residents who will be adversely affected by the decision.

    It doesn’t engender trust when Directors laugh at, talk down to, scream at and mock and ridicule citizens either and that’s what has happened here.

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  6. I agree that there should be transparency and broad community input into the planning decisions that affect Tredyffrin/Eastown township; however, said changes cannot be or should not be stifled by the objections of those individuals who live adjacent to the area and just do not seem to like the proposed modifications to their neighborhood. If there are valid, compelling concerns such as devaluation of property, of course, that’s a different issue. Unfortunately, one gets the impression that certain segments of the township are just reluctant to see any changes even if they might improve our local lifestyle and economy, such as changes to Devon Yard, proposed improvements to Berwyn or now Wilson Park.

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    Pattye Reply:

    For me, I would like to see the process slowed down, a thorough review and input from all stakeholders and THEN develop a plan for spending of the $1.5M. The money is earmarked for “parks” not just Wilson Farm Park — will other township parks receive needed maintenance and updating?

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  7. Change can be great—-when it includes the community’s input. Even with a deadline, there can be time to get the community’s input.
    Afterall, the community is paying for the changes and the community has to live with said changes.

    Request for Proposal-RFP, is normal when dealing with public funds. To make an exception only makes people wonder, how were the vendors selected? Transparency, from the beginning, would have reduced public concerns.

    Hopefully the supervisors will recognize their mistake and include the public’s input.

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  8. Why do the supervisors bother to appoint volunteers to township boards? As I read the ordinance, it looks like the Parks Board is supposed to be involved with all decisions related to the township parks. Yet the supervisors or staff (or both) ignore the ordinance and move forward as if it doesn’t matter. It sure doesn’t inspire citizens to volunteer, does it?

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  9. Putting pickelball courts in is a great idea, it’s becoming a very popular activity and I’m sure the 4 courts will be filled most nights and weekends.

    Putting the pickeball courts near the new housing units – bad idea. Pickleball is not a quiet sport and the sound of a bunch of plastic balls hitting a wooden racket will drive the residents crazy. There is plenty of open space to put in pickleball elsewhere.

    While they are spending $$ , how about a lawn & weed treatment service for the grass in the pavilion seating area.

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  10. I agree. It is a fun but loud sport! Also, from April – July that area is covered in geese and their droppings. Unless the courts are enclosed they would never be used due to the mess. They are a great addition to the park’s offerings but put them over near the other courts and where parking is more readily available.

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  11. You know, the township said it did not want to take over the Picket Post tennis courts just up the street from Wilson Farm park because it did not want the maintenance or felt like it did not need those courts in its parks portfolio. Adding pickle ball courts to Wilson Farm park seems redundant when they may have the opportunity to work with the club that has been trying to sell that property. The club has made some of its tennis courts into pickle ball courts that are increasingly popular. Surely some solution could be found that would not involve inconveniencing more neighbors with more construction, when facilities are already available. Has anyone reached out to the club leadership to see if they know about the township’s pickle ball plans?

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