The History of Anson B. Nixon ParkEnvisioned by Kennett Township in the early 1960s, planning for a regional park began in earnest in 1986 when the Township and Kennett Square Borough appointed a Regional Park Planning Committee. The proposed site, a total of 106 acres, consisted of 27 acres in the northeast quadrant of the Borough, with 79 acres encompassing land in Kennett Township. The Township portion of the site was leased to the Southeastern Chester County Refuse Authority for use as a landfill which was closed in 1978. The tract was named “Nixon Park” in honor of Anson B. Nixon who masterminded the landfill project.
The Borough portion of the site included two large stone-lined ponds which were part of the waterworks and water treatment process. The east branch of the Red Clay Creek flows through the tract. Between the Township and Borough’s tracts was the “Bloomfield” property, the site of a historic mill operation by the Chambers family dating back to 1794. This property was donated to Kennett Township to be included in the proposed park.
In 1988 the Kennett Area Park Authority (KAPA) was formed as a joint municipal authority of Kennett Township and the Borough of Kennett Square. A Chester County Park Acquisition Grant was received to begin KAPA’s plans for the park. Because of the fragility of the property, the landfill site was removed from the plans. Over a period of a few years, an environmental audit and test wells assured that the landfill settlement was proceeding as expected. KAPA took title to the land in 1990. In 1991 another grant was received, this time from the state, followed by the second County Open Space grant.
Anson B. Nixon Park was opened for use on June 12, 1993 for simple, passive recreation purposes. A non-profit support organization, KennParc (now Friends of Anson B. Nixon Park), was created in 1995 to raise funds for park maintenance, formulate infrastructure details, and organize programs. With support from grants, volunteers laid out trails through the woodlands, meadows, and open fields.
A permanent restroom, parking lot, improved trails, bridges, picnic pavilion, and tennis courts were soon added. Supported by a large corps of community volunteers, Friends of Anson B. Nixon Park presented summer programs in the park, including an Easter egg hunt, talent nights, and a production of the musical “Oliver.”
By 1996 the park promoted a children’s playground, five picnic pavilions, nearly three miles of trails with fitness stations, two sand volleyball courts, two bocce courts, a Frisbee golf course, ponds stocked annually for fishing, and a portable show mobile stage. Boy scouts helped with infrastructure improvements and the Kennett Fire Company assisted with parking for large events.
In 2001 KAPA built an entertainment pavilion on the pond bank which has been the venue for theatrical and musical productions. In 2004 Kennett Township donated to a 23 acre former landfill site with plans to create athletic fields for the community. With support from a Chester County Park Facilities grant, generous foundations, corporations, and individuals, the fields opened for play in the fall of 2006.
In 2010, a project was developed to plan for the preservation and reuse of the original Kennett Waterworks buildings. Working with the surrounding community, the plan would interpret the history of the space in addition to providing much-needed community space for meetings and events. The first phase of the project involved the Borough Department of Public Works relocating its operations outside of the Park.
Southern Chester Country Soccer Association entered into a long-term agreement with the Park for the management of the Oreste “Tino” Leto Fields in 2011. The organization has completed large-scale improvements transforming the fields into a premier soccer facility.
In 2016 the old public works area was re-purposed into a new parking lot which can hold about 40 vehicles.
In 2017 the completion of a new and safer entrance road was installed further up on North Walnut Street. Along with the new entrance road an additional 15 car parking lot was added near the volleyball courts with two additional handicapped spots. This major park improvement was funded in part by the generosity of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), Kennett Township, and the Chester County Open Space Preservation Program. Other park improvements include a new relocated community garden with approximately 40 beds, an herb garden, and handicapped accessible beds.
In March of 2018 the KAPA Board adopted a new logo for the Anson B. Nixon Park and plans are underway install new way-finding and signage throughout the park. The new park log incorporates the four (4) main elements that make up the park as determined by a field study back in 2017. Those elements include trees, trails, ponds, and stage/pavilions. When looking at the new logo you can identify those four elements as represented by the trees, the brown swoosh for trails and fitness, blue for the ponds and water element, and the stage/pavilion for community engagement and entertainment. In the Fall of 2018 the newly created dog park at Anson B. Nixon Park was opened to the delight of our furry friends!