June  23, 2004

Owning up in public to a major error is unusual; going the proverbial 'extra mile' to fix it is even rarer. And when a ranking government official and his department are the culprits, that's news. All of that happened at an area civic association's monthly meeting.

Secretary of Transportation Nathan Hayward told the Greater Hockessin Economic Development Association on June 21 that three years of planning and negotiations will reach a climax in the coming autumn with start of work on an enlarged version of an approximately 50 acre park at the intersection of Limestone and Valley Roads.

"One plus one can equal four," he said.

Creation of the park had been previously announced, but Hayward's explanation of how it came to be and the expanded scope of the $5.8 million project went well beyond what would come out in such a venue if the state cabinet secretary stuck to a public relations script. He even acknowledged that he

had even forgotten to bring the necessary power cord to use the Power Point presentation he did bring.

As he detailed it, everything started when Delaware Department of Transportation widened Limestone Road and inadvertently dumped a flooding problem on the Lantana Shopping Center. Hayward couldn't explain how such a thing happened beyond saying that "the engineers got it wrong."

In any event, he said, the choice came down to whether to "argue about it for a long time or just fix it."

At the same time, the department was wrestling with a decision on what to do with an historic tavern building that had to be relocated to allow for widening the road.

Several months ago, the decision was made to use surplus land at the northeast corner of the intersection as its new site. Purchase by the state agency of some adjacent land allowed for it to be situated in a park setting.

As initially conceived, the park would have been U-shaped, embracing the Basher & Son welding business. Hayward said he

Take your pick

The public has to decide between preserving picturesque country roads and turning them into thruways, according to Nathan Hayward.

If it's to be the former option, there's a tradeoff to be made, he added. Slower speeds and limited passing opportunities will continue to be required.

"If it's going to stay a country road, it has to be driven on with patience," he said.

The question arose at the Greater Hockessin Area Development Association meeting and involved DelDOT's plans for Brackenville Road, a major shortcut between Limestone Road and Lancaster Pike. But Hayward pointed out that there are numerous other examples throughout New Castle County.

patronized the firm in the past and has been pleased with its services, but agreed that a welding shop is not exactly the kind of amenity one would prefer to have sitting next to a park.

The secretary said the solution that has been worked out is to combine all the elements in a compatible four-sided package: DelDOT will build a new stormwater drainage pond; Pike Creek Fitness Club will purchase the Basher property; Hockessin Soccer League will manage two playing and one practice field in the park; a two-story parking garage with capacity for 200 vehicles will handle soccer fans and other park users.

The fitness club facility will be a private membership affair, but a more acceptable business for the location. The fields will be available for public use when the league isn't using them and DelDOT will complement the athletic complex with walking trails and other such amenities in the park. The garage will be "nestled into" the park and not be visible from the highway, he said. "It's not going to be another Shea Stadium of the Meadowlands."

In addition to the tavern building, the one-room schoolhouse which stands at the intersection of Limestone with Paper Mill Road will be located in the park.

Hayward described how those elements will fit together into a 'live happily ever after' scenario with Hockessin ending up getting a "significant new community amenity."

All of this is not something envisioned for some future undermined time, he added. Money to finance it is in the state's fiscal 2005 capital budget, which the General Assembly is about to approve, Hayward said.

In response to a question, he said DelDOT's getting into park development fulfills its mission to "prepare for the future [and] plan for orderly economic growth." To further that end, he added, the department has spent or committed more money in the past three years than it and its predecessor highway agencies did in all the previous years since the state got into the roads business in 1912.

Preserving open space, he added, is an important element of economic development. "I'm probably the greenest secretary of transportation Delaware ever had," he said.

2004. All rights reserved.

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