Barclay Grounds avoids development, will remain a passive park
By Justine McDaniel, Staff Writer
Posted: January 05, 2016
After nearly three years of preservation efforts, a West Chester park will be kept from development – but the fight for funds is still not over for supporters of the property known as Barclay Grounds.
The Borough of West Chester closed on the sale of the 1.3-acre lot from a private owner, after 21/2 years of efforts to raise enough money to buy it.
“We’re all elated,” said John Cottage, head of the Barclay Grounds Preservation Alliance, which raised $200,000 for the purchase.
After a new owner proposed building homes on the land in 2013, some residents rallied to save the shady lot, long used as a public park. The effort drew support from locals, officials and preservation groups – and even the owner, who liked the idea of preserving it but couldn’t do it on his own, said West Chester Mayor Carolyn Comitta.
“The partners are deep and wide,” Comitta said Thursday. “This . . . urban heritage site needed to be preserved and we did it.”
With state and county grants and community donations and loans, supporters managed to cobble together the $1.2 million needed.
The borough drew no money from its own coffers for the project. The Natural Lands Trust and Brandywine Conservancy wrote grant applications to win the borough state money, Comitta said.
The preservation alliance now has to pay back a $144,000 loan it received – Cottage would not disclose the source or sources – to help with the sale.
The group is hoping to raise the funds by selling virtual lots in the park: for $150, $300 or $600, people can buy a symbolic lot through the group’s website as a “personal keepsake.”
The borough could also now generate revenue from the park by selling “in memoriam” park benches or selling the naming rights, but no decisions have been made yet, Cottage and Comitta said.
The land is intended to be a passive public park – no play sets or ball fields – as it has been for years, Comitta said.
“It will get the care and attention it needs . . . for the space to be a great urban park for everybody to enjoy – forever,” Comitta said.
While fund-raising must continue, Cottage said, the “tremendous effort” had reached success:
“I think we can say we did it now, yes.”