fresh start for Ash Park
Nature isn’t just found in wide-open spaces; it can be found in every neighborhood. But some neighborhoods could be greener. This is especially true in some of the region’s more densely populated communities.
Enter the Greening Coatesville Initiative—a collaboration among Natural Lands, the City of Coatesville, and the Alliance for Health Equity. This long-term effort aims to revitalize the community’s parks and build local capacity to maintain and offer programs in those important outdoor spaces.
With the transformation of the city’s Palmer Park well underway, the partners’ focus shifted to the community’s largest park, Ash Park, once again starting with a blueprint known as a master plan.
Chester Ash Memorial Park was once the social hub of the community, with an in-ground pool, grassy fields, and a vibrant playground under shady trees. Over the years, funding Ash Park’s facilities and maintenance has been a challenge, as have serious stormwater issues. The 9.3-acre park was ready for a new plan.
Said Karen Clancy, PLA, ASLA, Natural Lands’ senior director for landscape design and project manager for the Ash Park Master Plan, “The park acts like a giant bowl in the middle of a valley. The lowest point of the park—the playground—often has standing water after heavy storms. So, we brought in Meliora Design to consult on stormwater solutions, incorporating their recommendations into our design.”
The master plan for Ash Park also includes extensive resident input gathered from both online surveys and community meetings. Coatesville City Council, the City Manager and Assistant Manager, and an advisory group comprised of seven residents and community leaders were instrumental in ensuring the park’s transformational plan would meet community goals at every level.
The final master plan for Ash Park addresses stormwater issues, provides a cooling (and more affordable) replacement for the closed pool, and includes myriad nature elements. The plan calls for a sledding hill, a native wildflower meadow, additional shade trees, a misting station and splash pad, an improved (and relocated) playground, and a wetland to collect stormwater—complete with a boardwalk over it. The plan has been written in phases to be conducted over the next several years as money becomes available.
Said Donald Folks, Coatesville City councilperson, “The reconstruction of Ash Park will build strength in our community, and it can once again be a hub for families to play and learn.”
Palmer Park update
Two years ago, Natural Lands celebrated with residents, volunteers, local officials, and other partners at a ribbon-cutting event at Palmer Park on the east end of Coatesville.
At the grand opening event, kids couldn’t get enough of the new splashpad and man-made stream that leads to a shallow, rock-lined wading area. At the top of the stream a circular plaza surrounded by benches offered parents a vantage point to watch the kids’ antics. Residents strolled paths past newly planted shade trees, scattered boulders, and other “nature play” features that were a big hit with kids of all ages.
But these features were just the beginning. Phases II and III of Palmer Park’s revitalization are now moving forward with funding from PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and PA Department of Community and Economic Development. Planned improvements include new sidewalks and playground resurfacing, landscaping with native plants, upgraded and expanded park lighting, and additional seating along with tables and grilles. A larger pavilion will replace the existing one.
“It’s easy for the impact of this work to get lost in the sometimes-complicated processes of obtaining funding, garnering support from partners, managing budgets, and evaluating construction bids,” said Oliver Bass, president of Natural Lands. “But just one visit on a sunny afternoon to Coatesville’s parks puts it all back into focus. The improvements draw kids and adults alike to the outdoors. Play, exercise, laughter… these are tangible outcomes we all can celebrate.”