The diversity of Chester County's open-space program was on display last Thursday as the commissioners handed out funding that helped complete both an urban playground and a rural walking trail, along with the preservation of a dairy farm.As part of the county's Municipal Partnership program, the commissioners approved $186,368 to help build a new handicapped-accessible playground in Coatesville's Palmer Park and $30,000 for the creation of the Springlawn Road Trail in Elk.

Representatives of both municipalities, on hand at the commissioners 'meeting to accept the grants, praised the commissioners for their help in getting the projects completed and boasted about the projects themselves.

"This project is a gigantic success," said Coatesville City Manager Harry Walker, who accepted the county check along with Robert Barry, the city's redevelopment project director.

"When you see the kids out in the cold weather playing (at the park), it says something about its success," Walker said. "We're very appreciative of the county's efforts."

Barry said the project had added new playground equipment and replaced some older wooden equipment in Palmer Park. The new equipment is designed specifically for urban playgrounds, he said, in that it is "tamper proof" and made to withstand possible vandalism.

The equipment includes swings, climbing gyms, spinning toys and even stand-alone binoculars for children to look through. "It's modern. Very modern," said Barry.

Total cost of the project was $219,903.

At the other end of the spectrum was the Elk trail, which was developed from an abandoned roadbed that transverses property owned by the George Strawbridge Estate that is used for fox hunting.

Supervisor Albert Jezyk Jr. said the narrow country road had "served no useful purpose to the township, except as a place where people dumped trash."

Now, however, its two miles are available for use by hikers, bicyclers and horseback riders.

"It's a little more than just trail," he said. "It is very beautiful and shows off the Chester County countryside."

The trail follows the course of the Big Elk Creek from Strickersvlle Road at its east end to Chesterville Road at its west end, just above the Maryland border. There are six bridges crossing the Big Elk, built to accommodate fox hunters, but the trail also includes access areas where people can get to the creek itself.

Bill Gladden, the county's open-space director, said the total cost of the process was $65,839, of which the county put up $30,000.

In addition to those two grants, the commissioners on Thursday approved an award of $516,903 for the purchase of an agricultural conservation easement for Ox-View Farms in Lower Oxford, part of the county's open-space Challenge Grant Program.

Gladden told the commissioners that the 116-acre dairy farm was one of a cluster of 10 farms in the area that had been placed under a conservation easement for open-space preservation. It is adjacent to two other preserved farms as well, he said.

The total cost of the easement is just more than $1 million, with Lower Oxford picking up 50 percent of the total.

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