You may recall my post on Thanksgiving morning where I took issue with a Daily Times’ article the day before mentioning three county parks receiving funds from Delaware County to upgrade their parks. I couldn’t understand why Deshong Park didn’t get any money.
A couple months ago someone asked me what I’d like to see happen at Deshong Park. I gave a three part answer with the first part suggesting to create a park by clearing the debris, installing lights, paths, a pavilion, benches, and a playground. Next, the visionary in me came out and I suggested that on the portion of park that abuts the creek, build luxury condos or apartments. Finally, I said to figure out what can be done with the old museum and either repurpose it into something or knock it down.
Sometime in November, County Council had a meeting and decided to put Deshong out for bid. The combination of getting no money for Deshong and hearing it’s going out for bid encouraged me to ask a few questions which resulted in having the opportunity to tell council how I really feel about Deshong at one of their final county council meetings.
As you’ll read in today’s Daily Times, the opportunity to stand before county council was squashed because the majority of county councilpersons voted to take the Deshong discussion off the meeting agenda.
However, during the agenda meeting, they had an engaging and eye opening discussion among themselves regarding Deshong that answered a few issues that have be confusing so many of us for years, while at the same time confirming that there are still a lot of outstanding issues that continue to remain unresolved.
As today’s article states, in 1986, it was determined by the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas that the 22 acre Deshong property go to the Delaware County Industrial Development Authority in trust and for the county to develop rateables on it. Those of us around here know that nothing has been done on the property since that time other than razing the old mansion that probably should have been rehabbed. Most summers the grass turns to weeds. Local city officials have police shoo people off the property. The homeless encamp there. And, even if someone was interested in using the property, there is a lot of confusion who to obtain a permit from.
Also, since 1986, there have been at least a dozen development plans that have not gotten off the ground; from movie theaters to low cost housing – even a Cambodian business district and walking trails. It seems either no one is interested in developing the property or the space is just wasteland.
One of the other important things discussed at the county council agenda meeting is the fact that the Deshong property is not designated as a county park. Therefore, it wouldn’t be eligible for county funding as a park (I guess).
Even though they decided they would rather not hear from anyone, particularly from Chester, about what we’d like to see happen at Deshong before the year is out, I’m encouraged they recommended a hearing type format in the new year for all sides to come together. Hopefully, a lot of the confusion on who owns what; who has the authority to make decisions; who can use the space and how to gain access; how to turn it into a Town Square, City Center, Love Park, super playground; removing or fixing the broken clock; who will cut the grass, will get sorted out. Many of us here sincerely believe the wasteland that is known as Deshong Park to some, and the Deshong property to others, can quickly transform into a space that compliments its location at the gateway of downtown Chester. We just have to put our heads together and figure out how.
The folks at ‘Chester Made’ under the auspices of the PA Humanities Council, who have created two documentaries on the history and confusion of the Deshong estate, have considered taking the lead in gathering and presenting a community solution to Deshong. We look forward to learning when the Deshong hearings are scheduled.