Barclay grounds to remain a park

This article can be found published on the Daily Local News‘ website.
The Barclay Grounds will remain preserved after efforts from the West Chester community. (Daily Local News)

The Barclay Grounds will remain preserved after efforts from the West Chester community. (Daily Local News)

The mission was simple: save the historic Barclay grounds in West Chester.

It was so important that a group of volunteers came together to create the Barclay Grounds Preservation Alliance (BGPA) to preserve the “beautiful, historic and ecologically important Barclay grounds” for current and future residents of West Chester and Chester County.

Well, the BGPA can finally say it achieved that mission.

“For over two years, we’ve been attempting to save the Bar- clay grounds, and that has been our slogan and we’ve had signs around the community and they’ve become iconic to a degree,” said Bill Lynch, vice president of the BGPA. “We have a number of very dedicated people who have worked without break over that period of time to try and raise funds to save the grounds.”

On Dec. 22, 2015, the BGPA closed on the second of two lots of the Barclay Grounds to officially save and preserve them as a park.

…[Please continue the story on the Daily Local News website by clicking here.]

“We were able to find funding from a variety of sources at the state and county (levels) and also through private funding to fulfill most of that need,” Lynch said.

The price for the grounds – the first parcel being closed on by the BGPA in June 2014 — was $1.2 million.

The BGPA worked with the Natural Lands Trust and the Brandywine Conservancy to help the borough apply for funds.

“It brought us to almost the total,” Lynch said. “What ended up at the end of November, the borough had to decide whether to move forward with it. The BGPA then promised the borough we would have the funds for closing and the borough was satisfied that that would happen.”

The BGPA fulfilled that promise, but through a loan taken out to come out with the balance. Now, the group has to recover those funds and is still looking for help.

“We’re not done fundraising yet,” Lynch said. “It’s important to us people know we’re going to continue to fundraise to make that all finalized.”

As ideas to raise money for the now-saved grounds, the BGPA will launch a crowdsourcing campaign, due to come out in a week or so through Indiegogo.

One of the more exciting things the group is doing for fundraising is the selling of virtual lots of the grounds.

“We’ve marked off the entire property in different sized plots and if people make a contribution, they will receive a certificate and they’ll receive a well-defined location for a virtual lot,” Lynch said.

The physical land itself will not be up for sale, but the idea has been used elsewhere the BGPA thought it would be an interesting thing to do for these grounds.

The sizes up for “purchase” are 12-by-16 feet, 6-by-8 feet or 3-by-4 feet.

“People can take some sense of virtual ownership of their contribution to saving the park,” Lynch said. “People have already been contributing that way.”

The Barclay Grounds, located on the northern edge of West Chester, was planned to be sold to place housing on. These grounds, which have a lot of history, have also never been built on, and the BGPA wanted to keep it that way.

“It traces its history back to William Penn’s charter from the king and the land itself has been an orchard and other agricultural purposes,” Lynch said.

It was turned into an estate around the Civil War with a house and carriage house, both of which still stand on the grounds. The southern portion, which are the grounds that are now saved, became an arboretum of sorts with specimen trees, many of which still exist.

“It really became a landmark within the borough,” Lynch said. “There was this greenspace that people could enjoy.”

Now, with the grounds officially purchased and moving into borough hands, the grounds will remain a passive park, meaning no ballfields or grandstands.

“The land will remain pretty much as is,” Lynch said. “There will be maintenance of the park. The borough will maintain it and the BGPA is interested in helping with that. (We want it to) be an open space, natural land and a place for people to come – not to have things built on it.”

The closing of the second lot just before Christmas became the best holiday present everyone in the BGPA could have hoped for and it’s something they believe will be cherished by many.

“This was very much a grassroots effort and we had almost 2,000 signatures for a petition online and a lot of those people were from outside West Chester as well as inside West Chester,” Lynch said. “That told us we were on the right track because a lot of folks valued the open space that exists. It was about preserving this open space that people could enjoy in a variety of ways because once it’s gone, it’s gone for good.”

For more information on the Barclay grounds, the Barclay Grounds Preservation Alliance or to purchase a virtual lot, visit www.savethebarclaygrounds.org.

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Categories: Community, Environment

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