People of West Chester thought of it as their park. Now it is.
Barclay Grounds is only two acres in size, but its importance to the environment and quality of life for West Chester is enormous. An area of open space within the confines of a borough crowded with homes, commercial buildings, government offices and university buildings, Barclay Grounds is a place of rest and respite in a beautiful and natural setting, shaded by many mature and rare specimen trees. Officially, it was private property, but for decades the landowners had allowed public access to anyone who wanted to enjoy nature and the open space.
That was all about to change in 2013. To the surprise and dismay of many who had always considered it West Chester’s urban oasis, the property was approved for subdivision into four residential lots. There was a groundswell of opposition. The mayor and residents contacted Pennsylvania State Senator Andy Dinniman, who reached out to us for help.
To prevent Barclay Grounds from development, a group composed of area residents, business owners, the Brandywine Conservancy, and Natural Lands Trust convinced a majority of Borough Council to seek to acquire the property as a lasting urban park. Fortunately, the owner/developer agreed to delay the sale of lots for at least one year so the Borough could pursue funds needed to purchase the property. The Barclay Grounds Preservation Alliance was also formed for the purpose of gathering public support, including private pledges and donations.
With the land appraised at $1.2 million, the Brandywine Conservancy and Natural Lands Trust launched a major initiative that involved identifying several potential grant funding opportunities, preparing grant applications on behalf of the Borough, and meeting with funders to ensure favorable consideration. We also obtained written support from influential state and township officials and identified additional financing means to help meet grant match requirements or possible grant funding shortfalls.
By the end of 2014, with many partners, we succeeded in helping West Chester Borough to secure $956,000 in public grants to acquire the Barclay Grounds property. The balance needed to reach the appraised price will be raised by the Borough and through donations from the Barclay Grounds Preservation Alliance.
The importance of these urban green spaces goes beyond beauty, relaxation and recreation.
Most important, a relatively small but historically significant and beneficial open space in the midst of the most densely populated borough in Chester County will forever remain accessible to the public. The importance of these urban green spaces goes beyond beauty, relaxation and recreation. The grass and trees help moderate temperature; filter and clean soil, air and water of pollutants; conserve water and soil; and enhance the well-being of those who live and work in the area. These benefits haven been forever realized through successful community efforts to stop development. Barclay Grounds will continue to enhance the quality of life enjoyed in one of Chester County’s prominent urban landscapes for generations to come.