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On Monday morning, the ground was officially broken for the ambitious Red Clay Greenway trail project in Kennett Borough.
Created in conjunction with the Whitehorse Foundation, the Land Conservancy for Southern Chester County, and a county preservation grant, the trailway project spans 10 miles and connects a variety of Kennett locations, including the YMCA and Anson B. Nixon Park.
Monday, shovels were put to ground at the Parish property at the corner of Scarlet Road and South Street to create the first one-mile portion of the trail that will eventually link up to existing trail networks throughout the region.
Gwen Lacy, executive director of the Land Conservancy for Southern Chester County, said that the trail network represents a tremendous amount of work on behalf of the organizations involved, including ongoing negotiations with homeowners whose property the trail encroaches upon.
“We’ve even come up with second and third options for the path of the trail,” Lacy said. “So it may meander in sections, but that’s also good.”
Mike Bontrager, a member of the trails committee, said that the idea emerged last summer after his daughter Stephanie Almanza, a 2008 Kennett graduate, suggested the idea to Lacy during her internship at TLCSCC.
“Chester County is one of the most beautiful places in the country, yet it’s difficult to run here,” he said. “We ran a marathon and found that it was very difficult to train around here without taking your life in your hands.”
She then spent the summer exploring possibilities to connect a variety of trails together, including existing ones in nearby developments.
Creating that connectivity within the east and west branches of the Red Clay Creek, he said, is also a driving factor behind the network’s development.
“We’re kind of building on what Mike Perna’s group has already done,” he said. “We’re trying to build an entire network. Along this trail there’s probably over 1,000 homes when you look at all of the developments that could be connected.”
The roughly $20,000 section of trail is being constructed by GreenRoots Landscaping, and – according to owner Josh Caufman – should be done relatively soon.
“I want to be out of here in three weeks,” he said.
Bontrager said that the 1.2-mile section is just the beginning of an ongoing effort to create connectivity throughout the region, including New Garden and Kennett Township.
“We just believe if we can get this started and people can see how valuable this can be, there will be other organizations that will jump in on this,” he said.
Bontrager also said that the Kennett boro9ugh has been very receptive to the idea and has become a major partner in the program
“The council has been totally behind this in really making this happen,” he said. “Without the borough acting as a partner it wouldn’t have happened.”
The ideal is we’re going to have this opened down to the Chandler Mill bridge and have it cross the bridge,” Lacy said. “Then south to Yorklyn, and then reenter the borough over by Legacy Fields. We’ve thought of every angle.”
She added that she couldn’t believe how quickly the concept came together.
“It’s been less than a year, and it just took off. And we’re all about trails.”