UPPER DUBLIN — Questions about pedestrian connections, a planned dog park and use of the clubhouse at the 105-acre Twining Valley Park were among those posed by residents at a Jan. 28 township commissioners workshop meeting.
Plans for the Phase 1 remake of the former Twining Valley Golf Course and Fitness Center at 1400 Twining Road — 87 acres on the north side and 18 acres on the south side — were offered in a “last update before we go to bid,” Parks and Recreation Director Derek Dureka said.
Phase 1 includes construction of a 2.75-mile, 6- to 10-foot wide asphalt multi-purpose trail; a single track 2.5 mile, 24-inch dirt trail for mountain biking and hiking; and a fenced 6-acre dog park divided into 2 acres each for large and medium-size dogs, 1 acre for small dogs and 1 acre for rotation.
The property, opened to the public Dec. 9, will be “allowed to return to nature,” with meadows created, riparian buffers along two streams, and invasive species removed seasonally, said Al Gryga, a landscape architect with CMC Engineering designing the project.
The only mowing, Dureka said, will be 5-foot strips on either side of the trails.
The township-owned golf course was run for 38 years by Links Management, whose lease was extended to Nov. 30, 2019, following settlement of a lawsuit against the township
In 2014, the township conducted a study of possible uses for the property that included a resident survey.
Of three options recommended, it was determined “naturalization would be the best use for the community and from the least cost approach,” Dureka said.
“We will let the property go fallow for a year to see what comes up and then we can better establish meadows we want,” he said. “Naturalization of the property is a 20- to-30-year project. In 2021-23 we will do a naturalization plan.”
Connections for pedestrian access are planned at Susquehanna and Twining roads, the Dresher Brooke townhouses and Ayr Lane, which will have a flashing light crossing. Parking will be at the former clubhouse and an existing tunnel used to cross Twining to the 18-acre side.
The township has obtained $520,000 in grants toward the $1.7 million Phase 1 project, Dureka said, and a $10,000 PECO grant is pending. Of the remaining $1.2 million, $1 million will come from the township’s Community Reinvestment Fund and $200,000 from its Open Space Fund, he said.
The estimated annual operating cost to manage the property is $15,000 to $20,000, Dureka said in an email.
“There should be some new off-setting revenue opportunities including programs and events, facility rentals and nonresident fees for access to the dog park,” he said. In addition, the relocation of parks division storage from a rental facility to an existing storage building in the park will save the township about $21,000 annually, he said.
Several residents, many from Willow Manor, which abuts the Fairview Cemetery on the 18-acre side of the park, had questions.
Regarding connections to the park and where dogs will be permitted, Dureka said, “The township would love to have as many community connections as it can,” and is “in discussion with several property owners” and “will continue working toward that.”
Dogs, which must be leashed, will only be permitted on the 18-acre side to allow the natural habitat on the larger portion to attract birds and other wildlife, he said.
No motorized bikes will be permitted, but e-assist bikes will, he said.
The township will seek a tenant for the former clubhouse, Dureka said, noting there has been some interest in continuing the fitness use of the building, but “we may be open to other tenants. We do not want to put a limitation on possible tenants.”
A porta-potty has been placed on the property and there is “no immediate plan” to permit access to bathrooms inside the clubhouse, Dureka said. “We’re looking at a part-time attendant to allow access to the building at certain times of the day.”
A “dedicated sledding area” will be posted on the township website, he said.
There are some safety concerns about sledding on the popular hill behind the Burn Brae firehouse, so “we will try to create a return to get back up the hill,” Gryga said.
Responding to fears of the A-residential-zoned property being developed, Township Manager Paul Leonard noted it represents 18 percent of the township’s open space and “the plan is to keep this as part of it.”
“The commissioners have absolute authority, but I don’t see it happening,” he said.
“The goal is to start designing now and break ground on the Phase 1 improvements in September,” Gryga said afterward.
Permits will take four to six months, and then it will go out for bid, he said. The park will be closed during construction — about 120 days, for safety reasons, he said.
Completion is estimated by winter 2020 or spring 2021.
“The staff is really excited about the property,” Dureka said. “We will do the best job we possibly can.”