May 14, 2002

Alapocas Run Park will be developed in stages over the next three years, state parks officials said as Governor Ruth Ann Minner hailed it as a worthy example of how significant economic development can co-exist with preservation of natural open space.

"It will be enjoyed forever," she declared on May 13 at a gathering of involved officials, community activists and media representatives called to mark the acquisition of the last piece of property for the Blue Ball Project and the formal start of development of its recreation and conservation component.

The event, the governor said, was "the culmination of at least three years of work and a complex planning process" which sought to integrate the attraction of multinational Astra Zeneca's North American operations headquarters to Delaware with preservation of a large tract of open space in southern Brandywine Hundred.

State Representative David Ennis and New Castle County Councilman Robert Weiner traced the evolution back further. -- to a desire to control flooding on Matson Run with upstream stormwater retention and efforts to block construction of a shopping center on the site of Rock Manor golf course, respectively.

Those scenarios came together with the purchase by the state, for a total of $16.9 million, of three parcels of land straddling both Concord Pike and Rockland Road from Al-Zar Ltd., the real estate arm of the Alfred I. du Pont Trust and the Nemours Foundation. In addition, the trust agreed to a permanent conservation easement on some of its remaining property between the Nemours estate and children's hospital and the parkland, said to be the equivalent of a $6 million gift.

The new park is named for a small stream which runs through the site and flows down a steep slope to empty into the Brandywine.

Charles Salkin, director of parks, and Mark Chura, the Division of Parks & Recreation manager who has spearheaded that agency's involvement in the Blue Ball Project, confirmed that Alapocas Run will not be a stand-alone park but an extension of Alapocas Woods, one of three units which make up the city-owned, state-run Wilmington Parks complex. The other units are Rockford and Brandywine Parks.

Chura said that talks are underway aimed at acquiring a small strip of land owned by Wilmington Friends School and Papastavros Associates, a medical testing firm, adjacent to Brandywine Condominiums to provide the last link in the system. When that is done there will be public walking access, by way of the Northern Delaware Greenway,  from Fox Point State Park on the Delaware River through Blue Ball to downtown Wilmington.

Noting that Delaware is the nation's seventh most densely populated state, Nicholas Di Pasquale, secretary of natural resources & environmental control, said that preservation of such and amenity in an urban setting was a significant achievement.

Chura said the parkland will be developed in stages -- the trail system by spring of 2003, the reconstruction of the Blue Ball dairy barn by the end of 2003 and the recreation area, with a park road, sometime in 2005. Salkin said that the barn will be under state auspices but that it is expected management of the recreation area in the section of the part east of Concord Pike will fall under the aegis of New Castle County.

Nathan Hayward, secretary of transportation, disclosed that Delaware Department of Transportation has rejected all bids for building a highway bypass to detour traffic during the construction of a partial interchange at Concord Pike and Foulk Road and will put the project out to bid again so that the state can accept 80% federal financing of the job, expected to cost in the range of $12 million. The resultant delay, he said, will be minimal.

The six-lane bypass is to be reduced to a two lane secondary park road when Concord Pike is reopened.

William Montgomery, administrative aide to Mayor James Baker, said that Lester George, a nationally renowned golf course architect, has been engaged to design a realigned Rock Manor course and its planning driving range and training facility.

2002. All rights reserved.

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