Greer Park Master Plan
This page will provide information to everyone in Newtown Township about the Greer Park Master Plan process. Below you will find an article appearing in the Spring, 2020 issue of the Township Newsletter, found within the pages of IN Community Magazine, which serves as an introduction.
There will be significant additional content added to this page shortly, including how you can fully participate in the Master Plan process at this Newtown Township community park.
Greer Park Master Plan
Greer Park, also known as Winding Way Park, is a 6.36-acre neighborhood park in Newtown Township. It has a fascinating history and is about to be the first of Newtown Township’s public parks to be the subject of a Master Plan. This plan, with an end-goal of rejuvenating the park is presently being worked on, and all of the Newtown community is invited to participate.
Today, the park features an open air picnic area with grills and seating, a moderate sized playground and swing set, a small parking lot and a .5 acre pond with 1000 linear feet of a stream known as Foxes Run – a major tributary to Darby Creek. The park is a beloved amenity of the community and the playground receives good use from local families. Many residents have used the park and pond as a background for their wedding pictures. Time, environmental and wildlife issues have taken a toll on this public land, still beloved by its neighbors but less-and-less visited by the rest of the public. With the Township poised to dedicate significant funds to the park, the time has come to address all of these matters in a holistic and comprehensive way. Hence, the Master Plan for which we ask for your help.
Greer Park was originally part of the pre-Revolutionary War era, 200-acre tract owned and farmed by Samuel Caley and several generations that followed. The Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia started buying individual farms in the area in 1887. Some of the names of these historic farm tracts should sound familiar – the Rhoads farm, the Caley farm, the Horton farm and the Tyson farm. The surrounding street names still bear their memory. Several other farms were added until a 600 acre farm had been created by the Pennsylvania Hospital, with many resident worker-families as well as patients, with hundreds of farm animals and acres of orchards and gardens. It was a massive operation, encompassing (more or less) all the area between Goshen Road and West Chester Pike and between Newtown Street Road and Bryn Mawr Avenue.
The Pennsylvania Railroad ran through the center of the farm, carrying passengers and freight (including meat, dairy and produce from the farm) between Newtown Square’s railroad station and Philadelphia. Fawkes Run (known as Foxes Run by 1875) was fed by springs and also ran through the middle of the property. The old railroad right-of-way and Foxes Run are part of the park to this day. A map from 1892 shows Foxes Run in its original condition, and by the time a map was made in 1909 the water way had been dammed and a pond created by the hospital farm as one of the ways to more easily provide the needed water and ice.
However, the farm was not to last forever. By 1945 the hospital was having great difficulty maintaining farm labor, and later that year a primary barn, which had stood near the northeast corner of Woodcrest Avenue and Ashley Road for many years, burned to the ground. By the spring of 1946, the hospital board decided to sell the farm. They determined to develop the entire area and the community of St. Albans was born.
As the majority of the 600 acres was developed into the residential areas we know as “Upper St. Albans” and “Lower St. Albans”, including the beautiful shops and St Albans Circle area of town, a 6-acre portion was deeded to Newtown Township for public use. The deed specifically calls out that a new Municipal Building could be erected on the site (the old Municipal Building was at the time to be demolished as part of the state-run West Chester Pike widening project, which also removed the trolley tracks). However, the Township elected to keep the property solely as a public park and open space in the midst of the development. It has since been cared for both by Newtown Township and also in a very direct way by the neighboring families who live next to it. First known as Winding Way Park, it was later renamed Greer Park in honor of a beloved Township Fire Chief. While a property for everyone in the Township to enjoy, those who live next to it have a personal connection to this land.
While the historical look back at this space is interesting, enjoyable and helps remind us how this parcel came to be here, the whole community of Newtown Township now looks forward with a master site plan. Two state grants from DCNR and DCED were applied for and received to produce this blueprint, and a committee has been working to help establish the parameters for the future park and has assisted the Township in selecting the best available professional consultant for the venture.
Greer Park, as mentioned in the beginning of this article, has battled time, environmental and wildlife issues, which have made it less-and-less used by the general public. A master plan will identify additional uses for the park and define how we should best care for the natural environment with potential improvements to the existing natural and man-made features of the park - including how to address the pond, creek and wetland areas. Improved playgrounds, educational opportunities and nature trails will also be considered in the master plan.
The consultant intends to have a final plan available by late 2020. Leading into that plan, a public survey will be made available to all Newtown Township residents seeking their valued input. Public educational sessions and meetings will be held to help ensure the community has multiple opportunities to learn and to contribute their ideas. Together, we are seeking to be mindful of its past and move forward to rejuvenate this space into a premiere park for the entire Newtown community to enjoy.