Fenimore Woods Park Renovation


Photo by Camrin Azzarano

Audrey Rubenstein

Fenimore Woods Park has been enjoyed by many Radnor residents for the past 100 years. Around the park, laughter and happiness fill the air as kids dash through the playground and adults roam the forest while looking at the beautiful tall trees. 

The park, however, is not perfect. During any sort of rain storm, regardless of how small, Fenimore Woods always floods. Whether it be by the bridge going over the pond or the reed beds, water constantly seems to fill up space in the park due to the ineffective storm water management. Since flooding isn’t Fenimore Park’s only problem, Radnor Township decided to allocate 2,027,000 dollars to revamping the park and making it safer and more modern. Some think that the project is going too far with the amount of trees being cut down while others think this project is long overdue and will be good for the community.

 The whole project started back in 2016 when Radnor Township held its Township Park and Trail Projects Bond Issue meeting. This meeting was meant to determine how much money each park and trail should receive to improve the community in the best way possible (see data of all of the money RTSD spent on each of the given locations). This meeting helped to start  outlining the upcoming nature projects throughout the district. Most of the projects were meant to start back in 2018, but most got delayed to now, due to the pandemic.

Photo from https://www.radnor.com/DocumentCenter/View/15265/Township-Bond-Presentation-Update—February-13-2017?bidId=

Once the Parks and Recreations board extensively discussed the plan for Fenimore Park, they sent out 75 letters total to alert Radnor residents about the project and invited them to share their input on the project at the next Parks and Recreations board meeting. When interviewing Camrin Azzarano, a resident that lives ¼ of a mile away from the park, she said she was not one of those residents who received a letter. Azzarano has been a frequent user of Fenimore Woods Parkfor the past 22 years, and she was upset to find out that she did not receive notification about this new project for her beloved park. 

She started to do some research to find out the purpose of this project and who had initiated it. Through her research, Azzarano discovered that a total of 143 trees were being cut down, even though only 26 of them were in poor health. The Shade and Tree Commission approved this plan July 15, 2020 under the condition that 218 trees would be replanted in place of the ones cut down. Even though there would be more trees planted at the end of the project than there are now, they aren’t the same type of trees. To be specific, the majority of the trees being cut down are canopy trees, giant trees that  provide the majority of the shade at the park. The current trees have been there for a long time and have aged with the park. While, yes, some of the trees are declining and becoming a safety hazard, the majority are healthy and continue  to add to the spirit of the park. 

The township has also stated that the reason for cutting down lots of the trees is because of the erosion from the flooding. All of the tree roots showing make it a safety hazard to anyone walking around the park.

Azzarano created a petition to stop all of these trees from being cut down, which helped to convince the Shade Tree Commission to reopen the project and look into it more. They hope to ensure that they are saving all of the healthy trees and that the  loss of the unhealthy trees will be offset by planting new trees. During an interview with Clare Girton, who is on the Shade Tree Commission, she explained that the new trees will take some time to grow, so the park will seem odd at first without as many full and tall trees as before. 

 The management of storm water may cause environmental changes as well  Currently, there are reed beds that cannot withstand the amount of water coming into the park. This flooding has had a large effect on the rest of the park, so the township put rain gardens into the reconstruction plan. These rain gardens are intended to  help to control the rain and aid the park’s  extreme drainage problem, while still looking natural and beautiful. Along with the gardens, the township is adding a dry stream to help lead any excess water to the Gulph Creek without causing too much damage to the park. 

The main issue that has yet to be addressed is the pond that is part of the woods. This pond has been deteriorating for many years and it shows through the tree roots coming up onto the unclear pathway that surrounds it, and many park users, such as Azzarano, are concerned. The commission has yet to add any details to the plan that would help reconstruct the pond or the surrounding areas, and it seems they have no aspirations to do so. This construction plan is more revolved around adding new things rather than preserving the old.Two new playgrounds are to be added, one for ages 2-5, and another for ages 5-12. There also will be new parking to replace the old and almost nonexistent parking lot, more accessible pathways all throughout the park, and a larger pavilion and bathrooms. 

Controversial discussion has also surrounded the bathrooms.  They were recently shut down due to the pandemic, and now the plan is to tear them down and rebuild new bathrooms.  Normally no one would care about what happens to the bathrooms at a park, but the building where the bathrooms are located was the stable from the original property. The original estate also included a main house and small shed, but they got torn down at some point over the past 100 years. The stables are the last of the original property, which causes concern throughout the Radnor community. 

This project was meant to be a reconstruction to keep the park in healthy shape, but it has seemed to turn into an attempt to completely remodel. This plan is an issue for many including Camrin Azzarona and many other Radnor residents. They want their park to be new and up to date, but they don’t want the original cause, making the park safer, to be lost in the efforts to add new attractions.

Given all of this information about the plan for Fenimore Woods, why is this project so controversial? During their interviews, Azzarano and Girton both made the point that everyone is so passionate about this park because of the emotional connections they have with it. Many parents, including both the interviewees, have taken their children to the park to create joyful memories, and people are genuinely afraid that these memories will be erased after the park has been remodeled. Girton argued that the spirit of the place won’t be lost and that the change just seems to be sudden, which is frightening for everyone. She understands everyone’s concern, but wants to reassure people that commissioners Richard F. Brooke and Jack Larkin with Director of Recreations Tammy Cohen have thoughtfully planned out the project for the park.