learned of the change in the course of the roadway after some
legislators were briefed about it. Delaware Department of
Transportation has made no public announcement and there was no
hint that it was in the offing in a recently distributed Blue
Ball Project newsletter. Nor is it apparent in material posted
on the project Web site.
Wicks, DelDOT's assistant chief engineer and Blue Ball Project
director, said that details will be included in updated material
made available at a public 'open house' to be held at the end of
October. At those sessions, attenders have an opportunity to
comment and discuss matters one-on-one with DelDOT
representatives, but there is no open forum for the airing of
said DelDOT had no alternative to relocating the roadway because
it is to be paid for using federal funds and federal law
requires that everything feasible be done to avoid encroaching
on historic sites or other cultural resources. "We either have
to avoid them or, if that isn't possible, minimize or mitigate
the effect on them," she said. In this case, since the area is
presently open land, avoidance is required.
The site in question is known as the
Weldin Plantation. It consists of some stone ruins identifiable
as the outlines of
and a chimney. State historic preservation officer Dan Griffith
described it as uniquely illustrative of 18th and 19th Century
agriculture in the very limited Piedmont area of Delaware.
"It is a significant archaeological
site that is eligible for the Historic Register," he said. Part
of the plantation dates to Colonial times and part to just after
the Civil War. That will combine with the nearby Blue Ball dairy
barn, which is illustrative of 20th Century agriculture, to
provide good insight into the area's heritage, he added.
New Castle County Councilman Robert
Weiner said, however, that he fears that shifting the road
restricts the ability to place three playing fields for soccer
and similar sports and a dog-walking area in recreational park
planned for the portion of the Blue Ball tract lying east of
Concord Pike. The amount of active recreation being provided for
in that park already has been reduced to the minimum conducive
to league play and significant public use, he said.
He said that Blue Ball plans include
These ruins, in a
wooded area just off Weldin Road, near Foulk, are the
remains of the Weldin Plantation.
Below is an artist's
conception -- published in the Blue Ball master plan
-- showing how they might be preserved as a feature of the
of the dairy barn where Concord Pike and Rockland Road intersect
as well as some other historic houses. The Weldin property could
be 'interpreted' apart from preserving the actual ruins if a
choice has to be made between doing that and giving up
recreation areas, he said
Chura, the state Division of Parks & Recreation official who
chaired the recreation and historic preservation committee of
the Blue Ball Taskforce, said that the master plan for the area
developed in conjunction with the advisory task force already
provides for incorporating some of the ruins in an attractive
way into the park landscape.
difference between that and the road realignment is that the
latter would preserve the entire Weldin site while the former
would involve only selected portions of it.
recreational plan can still work under the new alignment," Chura
added. "That is not to say that it cannot be cooperative" with
other elements of the overall Blue Ball plan.
Representative David Ennis said his concern is that the road and
the playing fields will take priority over stormwater management
facilities to control Matson Run and Shellpot Creek. He noted
that plans for the Blue Ball conservation area west of Concord
Pike envision significant improvements to Alapocas Creek.
has drowned in Alapocas." he said, referring to the fact that
two lives were lost in the Shellpot drainage area as a result of
flooding during storms a decade or so ago.
the need to control the two east-side waterways, which flow
downhill into north Wilmington while Alapocas Creek empties into
the Brandywine through Alapocas Woods, that was the original
purpose for acquisition of the Blue Ball as open space. The
project did not move forward until after top state officials
committed to providing land for Astra Zeneca to expand its
said the limitations on space caused by regarding recreation and
stormwater management as separate entities do not have to be as
restrictive as they are. Elsewhere in the country, the two
functions have been effectively combined. Ponds for controlled
drainage are routinely constructed so that they are dry except
when needed during and immediately after a storm. The legislator
said there is no reason why some Blue Ball recreation facilities
-- the planned golf driving range, for instance -- cannot
be built in a manner that it is periodically given over to
drainage control as nature demands for short periods of time.
said unequivocally that the road shift that has been agreed upon
will have no impact on the amount of space that is available for
playing fields and stormwater management.
said that the decision "to not go through the Weldin Plantation
site does not affect the goals of the park" nor violate the
provisions of the Blue Ball master plan. The recreation
facilities, she added, "can be laid out in such a way that they
said that deciding on the realignment at this time was necessary
so that DelDOT can obtain the necessary permits to move forward
with roadbuilding in the Blue Ball area. It plans to start
construction of what eventually will be a local-service road on
the west side of Concord Pike in January, 2002. Initially that
road will serve to carry Concord Pike traffic while a partial
interchange is constructed to replace the Foulk Road
timing "is critically important" if the road network is to be
completed in time to meet the demand created by the Astra Zenca
expansion, Chura said.
Meanwhile, he explained, it has not been possible to move
forward with the recreational component of the project because
the state does not yet own most of the property that will be
involved. It has acquired 11 acres while some 74 acres remain
tied up in court in a dispute over whether a partnership which
held commercial development rights is entitled to compensation.
Chura disclosed that the state has condemned the land but said
that condemnation is now being appealed.
(the state) have clear title, we cannot move ahead" with the
surveys and engineering work necessary to come up with a final
park layout, he said. But, he added, "we are committed to not
wanting [the roadbuilding] process to put at risk our ability to
implement the master plan."
said that efforts to preserve the Weldin Plantation do not
indicate an all-inclusive position that historic preservation
will control how development of the Blue Ball area proceeds.
Already lost in the process has been
a Native American archeological site dating to between 2000 and
500 B.C. which he said "will end up under the spur road" which
will connect Powder Mill Road with the Concord Pike-Foulk Road
interchange. That road, he said, could not be realigned without
"cutting through Astra Zeneca's parking lot and clipping a
corner off one of their buildings."