Contact - Volunteer - Contribute - (302) 468-6024

Bob Weiner
Home About Bob Legislation & Essays 2nd District News Articles Calendar Photo & Video Gallery 2018 Campaign Contact Bob
Bob Weiner News  

6/12/2012
We can now preserve scenic & historic Brandywine River valley for future generations - News Journal

County Councilman Bob Weiner said officials have brainstormed for decades about how to get the Woodlawn land preserved forever. “But it’s never been in our grasp until now, when this golden opportunity presented itself,” Weiner said. “We take it for granted, but we’re so fortunate to have this treasure, unlike so many urbanized counties in the region.”

Weiner said the land makes more sense for a national park than having different historic sites from all three counties, which is what Carper is currently proposing for Delaware’s first national park. “Sen. Carper should take this and declare victory,” Weiner said. 


NATIONAL PARK IN DELAWARE? 

Group touts new plan to buy, donate 1,100 acres with idea it becomes a park
By ADAM TAYLOR The News Journal June 12, 2012 

More than 1,100 acres of woods and rolling pastures just three miles north of Wilmington will soon be sold to a national preservation group that hopes it becomes Delaware’s first national park.

The land, purchased more than a century ago by Woodlawn Trustees, includes the Ramsey Farm, Upland Forest, scenic rock outcrops and wetlands along the banks of the Brandywine. It borders landscapes that inspired artists Andrew and Jamie Wyeth.

The sale to the Conservation Fund would permanently protect the land from development, which has been a goal of area residents who have long hiked and biked on the trails and fished in the river.

The deal, quietly cultivated for more than a year, is being hailed by civic leaders, elected officials and preservationists as one of the most important land transactions in Delaware in decades.

“Making sure this land received permanent protection has always been the greatest land-use issue in Brandywine Hundred,” said Bob Valihura, president of the Council of Civic Organizations of Brandywine Hundred. “We’re thankful to all the organizations involved who have taken this first step to ensuring that the future generations will have this outdoor recreation area available to them forever.” 

Blain Phillips Jr., the Conservation Fund’s Mid-Atlantic director, thinks the land is worthy of national park status. The group would donate the land to the federal government. If that effort fails, the land will be offered to Delaware as a state park, Phillips said.

About 880 acres are in Delaware, and 220 are in Birmingham Township in Delaware County, Pa. The land’s western border is the Brandywine and abuts other Woodlawn Trustees property along Concord Pike to the east. The northern edge is Smith Bridge Road in Pennsylvania, and the southernmost land is along Garden of Eden Road next to Brandywine Creek State Park. 

No price announced 

Woodlawn Trustees transferred the land earlier this year to the Rockford Woodlawn Fund, another local nonprofit with a similar mission to Woodlawn’s goal of preserving land near Wilmington. The Conservation Fund would be the owner, but the Mt. Cuba Foundation is buying the land on the national group’s behalf.

Mt. Cuba Foundation officials won’t say how much they were paying for the land, because the deal isn’t done, said Ann Rose, president of the foundation’s board of managers.

“This beautiful and important property has been off the market for more than 100 years,” Rose said. “Opportunities like this don’t come around very often, so it wasn’t a hard decision to make.”

The Conservation Fund has the land under contract until November, Phillips said. He sees no obstacles to keep the deal from going through. “It’s imminent,” he said.

While Woodlawn Trustees bought the land to keep it unspoiled and unscathed from developers, the nonprofit has more than one mission. In addition to land preservation, it is a benevolent developer that uses money from land sales to provide affordable housing in Wilmington. “It was never the intent of Woodlawn to continue to hold those properties,” Woodlawn’s Chief Operating Officer Vernon Green said.

County Councilman Bob Weiner said officials have brainstormed for decades about how to get the Woodlawn land preserved forever. “But it’s never been in our grasp until now, when this golden opportunity presented itself,” Weiner said. “We take it for granted, but we’re so fortunate to have this treasure, unlike so many urbanized counties in the region.”

Woodlawn still owns 771 acres in the area, mostly along Concord Pike. One of the properties Woodlawn kept is the cornfield at Concord Pike and Beaver Valley Road. Stoltz Real Estate Partners has a development agreement with Woodlawn for a possible mixed-use development at that site. 

History is nearby 

The land to be sold is a rare natural treasure because it’s so close to a city and a major interstate highway, Phillips said. More than 5 million people live within 25 miles from it. Phillips’ preference is that the land should be used to remove Delaware’s status as the only state without a national park. “I think it should be,” he said. “The transaction is transformative and I think the sky’s the limit in terms of the potential uses for this land as a park.” The land is near the Battle of the Brandywine, was once home to Lenape Indians, includes landscapes painted by the Wyeths and is near the home of the old DuPont powder mills, which represent the birth of American in-dustry.

“This land is the bull’seye of an incredibly historic corridor,” Phillips said. “I call the Brandywine a founding river of our nation, and think it’s the story of the founding of the country.” Within the site are remnants of buildings from an old mill town near Beaver Valley and Beaver Dam roads. There are documented Indian sites there, and there are rumors of troop movement on the land during the American Revolution. 
Weiner said the land makes more sense for a national park than having different historic sites from all three counties, which is what Carper is currently proposing for Delaware’s first national park. “Sen. Carper should take this and declare victory,” Weiner said. 

Carper’s thoughts 

Carper has been trying to get a national park for Delaware for years. His latest proposal would link six landmarks across the state and designate them as a national park that would tell the story of Dutch and Swedish settlers in the 1600s and the state’s role as the first to ratify the Constitution in 1787.Carper’s office was contacted by the Conservation Fund several weeks ago about the idea for the Brandywine Valley land as a possible na-tional park. In a statement, Carper didn’t oppose the idea of a national park in the Brandywine Valley. Instead he focused on the good news that it will be preserved forever, no matter which government winds up owning and managing it.

“Currently, I am working with Gov. [Jack] Markell and our congressional delegation to review all state and federal options available to ensure that this property is protected and can continue to be enjoyed by visitors from Delaware and from well beyond our borders for years to come,” Carper said. Carper spokeswoman Emily Spain said the Conservation Group’s idea is still in the early stages and won’t compete with Carper’s proposal for a six-site national park. More research is needed on the Brandywine Valley proposal, she said. “Depending on what the results of this research yield, it may be that this preservation effort could be combined with the current effort to establish Delaware’s national park, or it could be pursued on a parallel track as either a state or federal government property if that is determined to be the best course of action.” Carper said the Conservation Fund also offered money to the federal or state governments to maintain the land they want to donate. Either way, the group won’t hold onto the property. “We’re not in a position to own and manage the land,” Phillips said. “It will be protected as a park of some sort.” It hasn’t been determined how management of the Pennsylvania portion of the parkland would work, Phillips said. 

Many cheers 

People who live near the area or work to protect its natural beauty were thrilled by the news. Lorraine Fleming, a board member of the Delaware Nature Society, said she has been hoping for years that the land would be secured as open space because there was always the uncertainty that one day the land could be put in play. “Developers will grind their teeth,” said Fleming.

Markell, who lives near the land, said it’s too early to tell if the land would be better suited as a state or national park. He was focused on the transaction itself, which he said would bring tourism dollars and keep the land open for hiking, biking and other activities.

“It’s a triple win for Delaware’s quality of life, the economy and the people’s health,” he said.

Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Secretary Collin O’Mara added: “Goal one was protecting this land in perpe-tuity and has been accomplished. Now we’re looking at how best to manage it and maintain public access to hiking trails, biking trails and water access.”

Delaware Greenways, a group that specializes in the protection of natural and scenic resources and sustainable land use that promotes healthy and active lifestyles, recently conducted a viewshed analysis that included the Woodland Trustees’ land.

“A number of viewsheds on that land were identified for their scenic beauty and character,” Managing Director Andrea Trabelsi said. “We’re thrilled to see the protection is on its way to being formalized.” Virginia Logan, executive director of the Brandywine Conservancy in Chadds Ford, Pa., applauded the Conservation Fund and Mt. Cuba Foundation for getting the job done.“This land has been a priority for protection since the Brandywine Conservancy was formed in 1967,” Logan said. “We're delighted.” Kennett Pike Association President John Danzeisen said he would like to see the land become a national park, but said some residents would rather not deal with the extra traffic and congestion it could bring.“I think it would be a boon to the economy and a nice thing to have,” Danzeisen said. “Most of the traffic would be on weekends and offrush hours.” 

Reporter Maureen Milford contributed to this article. Contact Adam Taylor at 324-2787 or ataylor@delawareonline.com.

Visionary began Woodlawn Trustees in 1901

By MAUREEN MILFORD 

The News Journal June 6, 2012

Although William Poole Bancroft was born the son of a prosperous Quaker textile manufacturer in 1835, he didn’t take his birthright for granted, believing instead that money was a gift from God to be used wisely and well.

With that in mind, he spent his later years and bank account on preserving the natural riches of the lower Brandywine Valley with the idea of enriching the lives of unborn residents. Believing that nature is essential to a happy life, Bancroft had become increasingly concerned that urban growth would gobble up the wooded hills and farmland north of Wilmington, depriving future gen-erations access to the beauty of the valley.

In 1901, Bancroft created Woodlawn Trustees Inc.

to carry out his plan. The not-for-profit real estate company had a three-fold mission: save land along the Brandywine; develop responsibly near main ar-teries; and provide affordable urban housing.

“For many years, I had been saying that I wished someone would gather up the rough land along the Brandywine above Rockland and hold it for the future Wilmington, a Wilmington of hundreds of thousands of people … and I concluded that perhaps I ought to do something toward what I had been wishing others would do,” Bancroft said in 1909 at a meeting of West Brandywine Grange.

“My thought is that the hills along the creek, some of the valleys running up from the creek, and a few of the finest view points on the hills should be owned by the city and kept open for the public; and that the land further back from the creek, being largely in one ownership, may be laid out with roads on good grades and leading to the good building sites… Of course I cannot live to see much of this. It may take a hundred years to work out. Perhaps I may be able to so arrange things that it will work out, even if it should be very far in the future.”

To preservationists who have worked to save Delaware’s natural beauty for future, Bancroft was an enlightened planner.

Lorraine Fleming, a board member of the Delaware Nature Society, said the more time passed, the more Bancroft stands out as a true visionary. She said his reputation has even spread beyond Delaware.

“He certainly was ahead of his time,” said Irenee du Pont Jr., the du Pont family patriarch whose home, Granogue, is across the Brandywine from Woodlawn land.

Woodlawn has kept a low profile, very quietly selling land at below-market prices for civic uses, such as churches, the Brandywine YMCA and the Jewish Community Center. It also developed housing communities stretching north along Concord Pike starting with Alapocas in 1937. That was followed by Woodbrook in the 1950s, Sharpley in the early 1960s, Edenridge in the mid-1960s and finally Tavistock.

With each housing development, huge chunks of the property were dedicated as open space. It continues to own about 600 affordable housing units in Wilmington.

The 1980s were critical years for the organization when two major tracts along the river became available. Woodlawn was forced to compete with real estate developers, spending $5 million to purchase the Ramsey Farm above Thompson Bridge and the Jessup and Moore tract of the St. Joe Paper Co. near Rockland. The 45-acre Jessup and Moore site had already been staked out for home sites.

In 2004, Rockford Woodlawn Fund Inc. whose mission is affiliated with Woodlawn Trustees, was formed to promote preservation and the elimination of urban blight.

Fleming said the east bank of the Brandywine would probably be sprinkled with houses, offices and other development if it hadn’t been for the vision of Bancroft.

“The Brandywine would be a very, very different place without the vision of Woodlawn. There probably would be high-rises,” Fleming said. 

Contact Maureen Milford at 324-2881 or mmilford@delawareonline.
Letter to the Editor, News Journal July 6, 2012
Kudos to conservation of Woodlawn property

The Brandywine Conservancy is dedicated to the wise use and preservation of our precious natural resources. We are thrilled that, through the leadership of The Conservation Fund and the great generosity of Mt. Cuba Center, 1,100 acres of the Woodlawn Trustees property will be conserved.
We appreciate the leadership of Blaine Phillips of The Conservation Fund and thank him for the research and care he has put into advancing this project. His recommendation to place the property in the care of the National Park Service is a great way to make this happen.
The tremendous generosity of the Mt. Cuba Center will not only enable the preservation of this important resource, but will also create a wonderful opportunity for the area’s cultural leaders to collaborate in promoting the park and the tremendous natural, cultural and historical resources in our area.
Preserving the Woodlawn Trustees property has been one of the highest priorities shared conservation organizations, including the Brandywine Conservancy, for decades. Congratulations to The Conservation Fund and Mt. Cuba Center for making this happen and for creating a wonderful opportunity for the Brandywine region and its residents.
Virginia A. Logan Executive Director, Brandywine Conservancy U.S. Route 1, Chadds Ford, Pa.

 

Back to the News Summary

Have news? Please contact me!

HOT TOPICS:
Important Safety Tips
File a Property Complaint
Report a Pothole to DelDOT
NCC Open Checkbook
Presentations to Council
Redevelopment
NCC Council Video
New Castle County Finances
NCC Public Safety
Stoltz Developments
Other Development Proposals
NCC Clearwater Disconnect Program
Brandywine 100 History
Anti-Graffiti Brigade
Talley Day Bark Park
Claymont
Search BobWeiner.com:

Latest News:
7/24/2018
  Councilman announces details of redevelopment at former AstraZeneca site
7/18/2018
  We are not developers: Under new ownership the DuPont Country Club will emphasize community
6/9/2018
  Bob Weiner Interview: Preserving & Repurposing Brandywine Hundred and Beaver Valley

New Castle County Comprehensive Plan
How to Attend a County Council Meeting
Info on Planning Board Public Hearings
Time Limits For Speakers And
Standards For Review Of Applications
Directions to Reads Way

 

 

Give Bob a "like" on Facebook:


   
Latest News:
7/24/2018
  Councilman announces details of redevelopment at former AstraZeneca site
7/18/2018
  We are not developers: Under new ownership the DuPont Country Club will emphasize community
6/9/2018
  Bob Weiner Interview: Preserving & Repurposing Brandywine Hundred and Beaver Valley
Upcoming events:
County Council meets on the 2nd and 4th Tuesday evenings of each month
"In my opinion, his greatest strengths are proactivity, tenacity, vision, knowledge and complete devotion to promoting the best interests of not only his district but the county as a whole."

State Senator Cathy Cloutier

Paid for by Friends of Bob Weiner - www.BobWeiner.com - (302) 468-6024 - Volunteer - Contribute
Friends of Bob Weiner is the political candidate committee that accepts contributions on behalf of New Castle County Councilman Robert S. Weiner.

Facebook Twitter Youtube