Sunday, April 3, 2022

Park & Pathways for Harmony Woods? It could happen

Built from the '70s through late '80s, Harmony Woods (map here) in Ogletown, Delaware, is one of  New Castle County's (NCC) largest housing developments. As required by the Unified Development Code (UDC), approx 16 acres of land was set aside as mandatory open space. Most of it is forest canopy, but several acres are grass fields and require steady maintenance (mowing). This is coordinated by the HW Civic Assoc (FB), of which funding is a frequent topic at meetings, while the space remains fallow. In virtually all other NCC communities of this size, such land is a park with place-making amenities, which the County says they are working on improving.

For some reason, a park never happened with Harmony Woods, but this space represents a magnificent opportunity that's long overdue. According to their latest newsletter (snipped below), NCC Councilman Tim Sheldon will ask for a feasibility study on a "small" park:

As seen from NCC's GIS viewer, Harmony Woods owns the parcel all the way back and immediately abutting Liberty Square Apartments. It would seem intuitive that any park proposal should take full advantage and include the maximum space available to the community. Residents frequently walk, run or bicycle on the grass and through a berm (goat path) as a connection to Prides Crossing. This berm should be eliminated for a complete flat grass park, with formal 8' asphalt pathways (pdf) added. This includes key connections from Melodic Drive to Chatham Lane or Sussex Road. These ultimately connect to the Red Mill Road pathway, East Coast Greenway (ECG DE), and the planned Ogletown Historical Site and Marker. Other pathways, as indicated in the crude map at right, should also be added, along with amenities such as park benches, kiosks and/or waysides.

Streets are the only parks and recreation in Harmony Woods
Typically, to address the concerns of any adjacent property owners who might complain, County officials will offer mitigation strategies. For example, 6-10' stockade privacy fencing or shrubs are easily installed as part of the project. Though parks are hugely favored by the overwhelming majority of citizens, there are some challenges and lots of time involved to getting it done, but we will eagerly wait. One advantage -- unlike other lost opportunities -- is that this land is already in public hands, unlike others that we are all too familiar with.

Let's hope Councilman Sheldon comes back with some good news, that Harmony Woods will finally make the best use of its open space in the form of a park, community, place-making and multi-modal connectivity. The region as a whole is hugely lacking of parks and paths, and has been disenfranchised relative to most other regions of NCC. The importance of naturehood and protection (and increase) of property values cannot be overstated, and we are elated that our civic and elected leaders see this, and are prepared to act.

Also see: Another lost park opportunity in Ogletown?

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