Delaware County Council Takes Next Step to Transform Don Guanella Site into the County’s Largest Public Park

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Release: March 17, 2022

Delaware County Council approved a proposal to create a plan to transform the 213-acre Don Guanella property in Marple Township into the largest public park in the county and its first major park in more than two decades. The Don Guanella Master Planning Process, to be led by Ann Toole & Associates, will engage the public in planning for the conservation of the open space and natural features as well as for the buildings and historic resources on the property.

“The transformation of the Don Guanella site from a closed-off, private property at imminent risk of development into the County’s largest public park is a once in a lifetime opportunity to protect and preserve one of the last large tracts of open space in our densely populated county,” said Delaware County Councilwoman Elaine Schaefer. “This incredibly important natural resource will provide both economic benefits and environmental benefits as it improves the quality of life for all Delco residents in the immediate future and for years to come.”

The Don Guanella Master Planning Process will include substantial public participation, including the creation of a Plan Advisory Committee, at least two public meetings and six focus groups in various communities, online public participation through website and public opinion surveys, and interviews with key professional and community leaders. Members of the Plan Advisory Committee will include representatives from the Delaware County Park Board, the Delaware County Green Space Task Force, Delaware County Council, County employees, and members of the community. Information about how to apply to serve on the Plan Advisory Committee will be posted on the County’s website soon after the proposal is approved.

The Master Planning Process will be led by a team experienced in open space preservation and use in Delaware County. Ann Toole & Associates – the same consultant that helped set up the Delco Greenways Task Force, the Delco Greenways Grant Program, and plan for a new approach to County-wide open space and trails program – will lead the process, working with environmental leaders including Natural Lands, JMT Engineering, and Urban Partners.

The County purchased the 213-acre Don Guanella parcel after its development into housing and institutional use was unanimously rejected in December 2020 and April 2021 by the Marple Township Board of Commissioners and opposed by the Planning Commission. An earlier development proposal to develop the land into a mixed-use development with retail, residential, office and recreational spaces was similarly rejected by local elected officials in 2016. The County acquired the land from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and a private owner by paying fair market value as part of the process of eminent domain.

“A new park at the Don Guanella site will be beneficial to all County residents from all corners of our County,” said Schaefer. “The commencement of a Master Planning Process represents a big step forward in making our County a place that appreciates that we can protect and preserve our natural resources, provide amenities to residents and visitors, and support economic development through careful planning and coordination with county residents.”

The master plan is expected to be completed by December 2022.

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Delaware County, presently consisting of over 184 square miles divided into forty-nine municipalities is the oldest settled section of Pennsylvania.

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