Orange Township: New parks master plan to focus on 'medium- and long-term needs'

Jim Fischer
ThisWeek

Acknowledging that development always will be a reality, and green space and recreation are vital, Orange Township is taking a comprehensive look at its parks.

Earlier this year, the township’s trustees approved a $95,000 contract with Cleveland-based Brandstetter Carroll Inc., an architectural, engineering and planning firm, to create a new master plan for the township’s parks system. The township’s parks plan last was updated and approved in 2008.

A sign marks the entrance of Orange Township’s new North Road Park in this October 2019 photo..

Trustee chair Ben Grumbles said as the township worked to finalize development plans for North Road Park, trustees thought it was time for a “holistic look at the parks, to include amenities and financials, including maintenance and replacement.”

“We’ve got parks and green spaces all over the township and a changing demographic and dynamic population,” Grumbles told ThisWeek.

“There’s a lot of space, but you can’t put everything in every space,” township administrator Andrew King said. “We thought it was time to step back and manage our space for not only immediate needs but also medium- and long-term needs.”

Those needs most often are driven by residents, Grumbles said, citing space for rugby, cricket, pickleball and disc golf, as well as a dog park, as desired uses brought to the trustees' attention.  

King noted the variety of park spaces available, from community parks with playgrounds and picnic tables, such as Walker Woods and Ro Park, to the skating pond and pavilion at Glen Oak Park and larger spaces, such as North Orange Park (site of the aquatics center) and North Road Park, the township’s newest.  

More details about the township parks are online at orangetwp.org/132/Park-Department

Fields, primarily for soccer, baseball and softball, are always in demand, Grumbles said. He said it’s important for the township to manage those spaces in both a fiscally responsible manner and a way that maximizes their benefit to township residents.

“We are aware that, through youth sports organizations, non-township residents are using our facilities and spaces,” Grumbles said. “Of course, there are contracts in place for that, and we welcome that use, but we also want to have an awareness not only of the demand but (also) of the supply. The question we want to ask is, ‘Do our field-use agreements displace residents that want to use open space and are paying for it with their taxes?’”

Such assessments are a specialty of Brandstetter Carroll Inc., Grumbles said.

The plan also will consider spaces in the township that aren’t owned or operated by the township, King said, including the Jennings Sports Park, a privately owned space on the edge of the Evans Farm development that will offer multiple baseball fields and turf soccer fields. Construction on what previously had been dubbed Project Grand Slam is set to begin in the spring.

Such local amenities as Preservation Parks of Delaware County’s in-development McCammon Creek Park also will be considered in developing the plan, King said, “from the standpoint of not duplicating services.”

Trustees said the township’s trail plan remains in process and is included in the master plan. 

“We have quite a bit completed, but there are some key connectivity points that we need to establish,” trustee Ryan Rivers said.

Rivers said although it is unlikely to be a primary point of emphasis in the plan, potential future land acquisition for parks also will be considered.

“We need to compare our parks operation and availability to that of similar communities,” Grumbles said. “We have playgrounds and open space for play, but what is missing from our existing parks?”

King said he expects the plan to be completed this year, possibly by the summer. He said it would include surveys and forums, all in the interest of receiving input from residents.

“We know from our surveys that this is a very important part of our township for residents,” Grumbles said.

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