The west side portion of Beckett Park officially reopened June 29 after a $2.09 million upgrade that included the construction of a new shelter, a “natural” playground, a small pond that can used as an ice skating rink in the winter and a 1.25-mile trail that loops around two newly enlarged lakes.
The project, which was part of phase III of the Beckett Park development, was funded through a $247,500 grant from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and through $1.7 million of TIF funding.
In addition, a Boundless Playground that opened in early November of 2010 on the east side of the park was also part of the third phase and was funded with $135,000 worth of combined contributions from Procter & Gamble and CVS Caremark.
Prior to the completion of the playground, West Chester Township officials tentatively scheduled for the west side of the park to be open by the end of 2010. That target date was then adjusted to the spring of 2011 after the playground opened.
“In terms of the duration of the project it was an outdoor construction project, so there were weather issues and some contractor issues,” said Barbara Wilson, public information officer for West Chester Township.
“All those kind of things led up to the longer than anticipated construction time frame, but what the Township has always tried to do was make sure the tax payers were getting a quality recreational amenity and that was the end result.”
According to Wilson, the contractor issues and record rainfall totals during the spring of 2011 inhibited the third phase of the project from moving forward.
Construction of the third phase included the enlarging of the two lakes on the west side of the park, as well as the development of a paved/mowed trail that loops around the improved water space.
During the construction of the lakes, workers did not completely drain the water supply and did not have to stock the lakes with fish.
One West Chester resident, who has been fishing the lakes since the park opened, has already caught catfish and carp.
“This is nice because you have an area now where you don’t have to go far to fish or walk or ride bikes or whatever you want to do,” said Charlie Fetick of West Chester. “They did a good job.”
West Chester residents found ways to walk on the trail and fish prior to the official opening on June 29. Prior to that time, however, the west side of the park was not open to vehicle traffic.
To pay for all three phases of the Beckett Park project, the Township has borrowed funds over the years from the 747 TIF. West Chester Township continues to pay back borrowings for all three phases. The 747 TIF does not expire until 2028 and collects about $5 million annually, according to Township officials.
The first development phase of Beckett Park, which was acquired by the Township through a land transfer with the National Park Service in 2000, was completed in 2005.
Approximately $2.8 million of TIF funding was used to complete that phase, which involved the building of the West Chester Baseball Complex.
The second phase, which was completed in 2008, included the re-locating of Muhlhauser Barn and the Christian Moerlein Gazebo. Both structures were donated to the Township. The rental payments for the barn, which is available to rent seasonally, exceeds the cost of its maintenance and upkeep, according to Wilson.
Beckett Park is 150 acres and straddles Beckett Road near the Union Centre Boulevard intersection.