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Sights to See: Pennington Park 2.0

by Anne Marie D. Lee
…From the pages of Burlington the Beautiful…

Upgrade and expansion plans promise visitors a whole new outdoor experience.

The renovation of Pennington Park is an important piece in a larger Burlington County plan to improve the region’s parks and develop off-road trails along the Rancocas Creek. If current design plans are carried through, the area is in store for some dramatic changes. Plans for an expansion of Pennington’s trails and facilities promise a richer, more diverse park experience that park goers of all outdoor interests will be able to enjoy again and again.

Topping the wish list of every community, dog parks are a big deal. Two dog runs are coming to Pennington Park; one for small dogs and one for large. “This will be the first dog park in the county system,” says Matt Johnson, coordinator for Open Space Acquisition and Park Development for the county, who finds himself fortunate enough to have a hand in preserving land for future generations and families like his own to enjoy. While dogs are currently allowed in the park on leashes, the two areas soon to be in development, each one acre in size, will allow off-leash play.

Park foliage will also receive special attention, as part of a plan to enhance the natural scenery with seasonal plants and create a more engaging tapestry of shapes and colors. Perhaps the most compelling component of the park has been its most underused feature— Rancocas Creek. Part of this development project will be to carve out new trails that will give visitors exposure and access to the part of Rancocas Creek that has thus far been off-limits. These trails, which will be built close to the creek, will take Pennington Park to a whole new level, allowing visitors to commune with nature more intimately through boating, sightseeing and even birdwatching from a bridge that will be built over a small tributary from the Rancocas Creek.

Although he only assumed oversight of the county parks system on Jan. 1 of this year, Freeholder Director Bruce Garganio said he has quickly familiarized himself with Pennington, and the improvements that now are in the pipeline.

“People will be able to get closer to the water, see the activity and wildlife and enjoy those views that they haven’t had previously,” says Garganio. Opening bids for this major project, estimated at $3.5 million, took place in late Dec. 2009. While planners intend to have portions of the park remain open for as long as possible during renovations, at some point this year all portions will be closed. A grand opening is set for fall of 2010.

By that time, Matt Johnson says park developers will have made improvements on existing facilities, adding soft-surfacing made of poured rubber to playground areas, installing hard surfacing at picnic pavilions and replacing old park grills with new adjustable grills that can be turned according to the direction of the wind. Combined with new additions such as community gardens, the aforementioned dog parks and trails along the waterfront, Burlington County aims to increase the user-friendliness of the site and broaden the number of groups who visit.

A substantial project, Pennington Park’s renovation will not only improve the quality of life for Burlington County residents, but serve as an economic engine to provide more than 30 jobs locally, increase visitorship and bring money into the local economy.

Or as Freeholder Director Garganio puts it: “It’s going to be a brand-new park,” he says. “It’s going to be a jewel in the crown of the county park system.”

When You Go
Pennington Park
Creek Road
Delanco Township
(609) 265-5858 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting (609) 265-5858 end_of_the_skype_highlighting

Published (and copyrighted) in Burlington the Beautiful; County of Opportunities, Spring 2010.
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