Twp. Supervisors, County Commissioners, state legislators, residents join in celebration
By Mike McGann, Editor, UnionvilleTimes.com
NEWLIN — It was a process that took years and at times proved challenging, but township officials glowed with pride over their dedication of Mason-Dixon Park adjacent to the Stargazer Stone, Thursday.
The five-acre tract will be left as wooded open space — much as it might have appeared to Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon who worked in the immediate area formally establishing the border between Pennsylvania and Maryland between 1763 and 1767. The line would later become the line between free and slave states and still symbolizes the border between north and south.
Local, county and local legislators gathered Thursday afternoon with township residents to celebrate the formal dedication of the green space, completing a lengthy process that started some years ago when Linda Kaat, a resident of neighboring West Bradford, noticed the parcel, just next to the Stargazer Stone, was up for sale and suggested it should be preserved as open space.
While not everybody was initially in support — and a handful of residents remain in opposition — the project began to gain momentum, as township Board of Supervisors chair Janie Baird took up the charge along with with her colleagues on the board, Bob Pearson and Bill Kelsall.
Baird though, gave the credit to Kaat.
“She saw that the lot was for sale,” Baird said. “And started pushing. She really was instrumental in getting it started.”
Kaat suggested she was in the right place at the right time.
“Timing was everything,” she said. “I think the stars were on my side.”
While the stars might have aligned, it took some shoving to get the people — and the money — in the right place.
Part of the process was doggedly contacting state Sen. Andy Dinniman — a former West Chester University history professor who understood the historic significance of the Stargazer Stone and surrounding area.
“Linda would accost me at various events,” Dinniman recalled Thursday, suggesting that the people not just of the township, but of the county, owe her a debt for her determination to protect the tract.
Dinniman and his staff helped the township get a $100,000 grant to start the process of buying the property. Chester County stepped up with another $100,000 and the township was able to fund the rest and what had been a dream for Kaat, Baird and others was becoming reality.
Chester County Board of Commissioners Chair Terence Farrell characterized the project as the ultimate “public, public, public partnership” in that the state, the county and the township worked together to make it happen. He added that it remains a goal of the county to preserve 30% of the county for open space and currently, 23% has been set aside, and the five acres would adding to that figure.
State Rep. Chris Ross (R-158) noted the value of preserving the wooded lot in its natural state — especially for future generations visiting the Stargazer Stone.
“If there had been development (here), it would have distracted from the Stargazer Stone,” he said. He added that with the 250th anniversary of Mason and Dixon’s work on the site coming in Nov., 2013, he was hopeful the various public entities would be able to work together to enhance the site for visitors in the coming months.
The park, right now, is completely undisturbed wooded lands along Stargazer Road. The only indication is a large stone marker, donated by Bellafiore Landscaping near the roadway. Visitors can park at the township building on Rt. 162 and follow an eased path to Stargazer Road, to visit both the stone and the adjacent parkland.
Mason and Dixon worked out of the Harlan House — the structure still exists on the corner of Stargazer Road and Rt. 162, but is privately owned and not open to the public.