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.