UPPER DUBLIN >> Green is the predominant color of the draft master plan for the future of the 105-acre Twining Valley Golf Course aka the Upper Dublin Golf & Fitness Center.
After 14 months of study, surveys, committee and public meetings, CMC Engineering, hired to do a feasibility study to determine alternate uses for the township-owned site at Twining and Susquehanna roads, presented the draft plan at a Jan. 27 public meeting attended by about 35 residents.
The lease with Links Management, longtime manager of the golf course, expires Nov. 30, 2019, and the study is meant to serve as a guide for possible future use of the site, which comprises 87 acres on one side of Twining and 18 acres on the other, and represents 18 percent of the township’s open space.
The goal, Victor DePallo of CMC said, was to develop a plan to provide access and usability for all township residents, “the highest and best value” for recreation for the community, and serve as a guide for the commissioners “to make informed decisions.”
Three options presented last May were “massaged into one” with community input to create the draft master plan, he said. Due to stormwater management and safety concerns, poor construction of the existing building and poor condition of the course, continued renovation of the clubhouse “is not recommended,” DePallo said, adding a minimum of $1.5 million would be needed for minor improvements to the golf course.
The draft master plan, which eliminates golf, most mirrors the Option 1 plan presented in May, which had been the most preferred by respondents to an online survey.
Comprising three phases: restore, grow and transform, the plan was detailed by Al Gryga, CMC director of planning and land architecture.
The cost of the first two phases is estimated at about $6 million, with no cost assigned to the third, which includes a variety of options for future development.
The $650,000 restore phase would remove existing structures and golf-course related improvements, preserve the property in a more natural state and connect existing cart paths to create a two-mile long walking and biking path, Gryga said.
The “more aggressive” grow phase, at $5.35 million, would “enhance the land as an ecology park,” establishing separate successional forest and meadow areas. Among amenities listed were: a lowland forest, riparian corridors for better stormwater management, a native plant arboretum, expansion of the ponds and parking lot, wetlands and waterfalls with accessible bridges and boardwalks, and a further developed trail system with off-road hiking and biking trails.
Attractions for children include: an “enhanced” sledding slope that would be moved from its current location and a natural playground that might have an area to dig for dinosaur bones, an art wall, tricycle path and Colonist ship. A small pavilion near the center of the site could accommodate a small concert series, Gryga said, with a larger nearby space serving as a seasonal programming area — both near a 100-space parking lot. Possible activities might include a large chess game or toy boating, he said.
The “transform” or “forward-thinking” phase includes a library or community space of 15,000 to 50,000 square feet; a municipal storage facility of 10,000 to 40,000 square feet near the existing fire station; and parking expanded to 400 spaces with grass pavers for overflow, he said.
A list of possible sources for grants is included in the plan, but if the township completely funded the $6 million it would cost $38 per household per year for 20 years, Gryga said.
Among questions asked by residents were when a decision might be made to go forward with the plan, the location of amenities, maintenance and access by walkers. One woman advocated building the community center as part of the initial plan with an indoor or outdoor pool.
The existing tunnel will be kept for access, the pond could be frozen over for ice skating and what the community center might have would be up to the township, Gryga said.
Responding to a question about the possible sale of the land to a developer, township parks & recreation Director Derek Dureka suggested that was unlikely given the $30 million open space referendum approved by residents, the $60,000 feasibility study for which the township paid 50 percent, the existing trails and the fact that the township is 95 percent to 98 percent built out.
Dureka said the board can accept the study, but with the lease expiring in 2019, actual approval of the plan would be several years away and accepting the plan “doesn’t mean we are moving in that direction.”
A hard copy of the draft plan is available in the township parks and recreation office and on the township website at http://www.upperdublin.net/?wpfb_dl=1472. Comments can be made online at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/TwiningValley until Feb. 4.
The draft will be presented to the board of commissioners at its Feb. 9 meeting, to the township planning commission Feb. 16 and a final study will be presented to the township commissioners March 8.