Kennett Greenway

Skyrocketing costs, endless delays, and the lack of an overall plan plague the Greenway as envisioned by the Square Roots Collective. Their signature project proposed for Chandler Mill Road would cost $5M, cut down hundreds of trees, provide questionable benefits to cyclists, would take years to complete, and even when completed would not connect to a well-maintained path in the north.    

Background

For almost a decade, we have been excited by the promise of the “Kennett Greenway” to improve the lives of its residents and lure visitors to the region.  For most of that time, Kennett Township delegated leadership of efforts to develop the Greenway to the “Kennett Trails Alliance” or KTA, a program within the Square Roots Collective. KTA promoted its own vision of the Greenway as a 14 mile long, 10’ wide, paved path for pedestrians and cyclists (aka a "shared use path") passing through the countryside surrounding the township.  KTA has invested resources into designating staff who lobby municipalities to apply for grants, who coordinate meetings with the designers and the community once projects are underway, and who vigorously brand the Greenway.

The Greenway has not been without controversy, not the least of which are associated with . It is plagued with skyrocketing costs and endless delays.  The 1.4 mile Chandler Mill Trail, currently in "final design" for more than a year will have taken at least a decade to complete, if it ever is. The cost has climbed steadily, from $4 to now $5.5 million.  There is no plan or budget for maintaining the trail - the .8 mile Parrish Trail pictured to the left (the only section of the Greenway partially completed after a decade of effort) is criss-crossed with ruts and ends in a field. It is not even clear if or how the the sections will be connected - there is no master plan, and the more than $6 million of projects funded or in development to date would result in 3 disconnected sections totaling about 3 miles. And KTA has promoted plans with high environmental costs - to complete the 1.4 mile long Chandler Mill Trail, almost 300 trees must be cut down and countless more damaged.

After eight years and close to $1 million already spend on design, we believe that we must now accept that the Kennett Greenway as envisioned by KTA will never be completed. Based on progress thus far, the Greenway would cost $30-40M and take at east 2-3 decades to complete, if it eve will be.  On OpenKennett, we present the data that have led us to this conclusion on projects like the Chandler Mill Trail and the Red Clay Park that risk falling far short of expectations and needs. Accepting the fact that KTAs vision will never be realized will help ensure that public funds will be directed to projects that are actually likely to succeed. We believe that these can become part of the Kennett Greenways: a network of paved paths, road-based cycling routes, and natural trails (like the trail to the right through Stateline Woods Preserve). Crisscrossing the region, it can be tailored to meet the needs of every group of users, and built in  fiscally and environmentally responsible ways. Follow our Kennett Greenway Forum to stay informed.

To learn more, follow the timeline outlined below. This details the evolution of the Greenway in Kennett through the work of the original design team, and the new design team installed in 2020. Click on links to read supporting documents 

Organizations

People

  • Gamble: Geoffrey Gamble, KT Supervisor 

  • Hoffman: Whitney Hoffman, former KT Supervisor

  • Leff: Richard Leff, KT Supervisor

  • Moore: Lisa Moore, KT Manager until 5/2019

  • Norland: Christina Norland, Director of KTA, Chair of TSC, Lawyer for Square Roots Collective 

  • Ratliff: Eden Ratliff, KT Manager beginning 10/2019 

  • Stevens: Scudder Stevens, KT Supervisor

Projects

  • Birch: Birch St Rehabilitation

  • CMR: Chandler Mill Road Path

 

  • KGW: Kennett Greenway

  • Underpass: Railroad Underpass at Pennock Park

Original Design Team

 

Jun 2014

TSC formed through Ordinance 218

What happened? 

KT passes Ordinance 2018 to formalize TSC in municipal code, with KTA as the only non-public entity assigned a seat. KTA representative elected as Chair

Concerns? Conflict of Interest?

What are the CONCERNS? Conflicts of interest

KT does not require members of any advisory committees (like TSC) to disclose other interests, creating opportunities for committee members to promote projects that may benefit themselves financially   

What happened? 

PennTrails and McMahon develop a preliminary design for an 8' wide stone dust (narrowing to 3' as needed), wheelchair accessible path within the Right of Way alongside CMR, including a 1.5' buffer.

Opportunities? An accessible and environmentally responsible path 

What are the OPPORTUNITIES?

The proposed path narrows to as little as 3' as needed to protect trees and sensitive areas. Two one-lane sections accommodate the path on the road where there was not enough room on the shoulder. Cyclists are expected to share the road, with limited traffic calming

Nov 2017

CMR Path funded 

What happened? 

MTF grant proposal funded for $1.7M, with KT match of $340K, for a path projected to cost $2M to $2.5M. Grant  funds must be expended by June 2021. Project to be managed by KT employees.

Opportunities? Fiscally responsible plan

What are the OPPORTUNITIES?

Fiscally responsible plan 

The grant together with the local match is expected to cover most if not all of the costs of design and construction. 

2018-19

KTA blocks alternatives to its "vision" for CMR

What happened? 

KTA refuses to allow the 2015 plan to move towards final design, insisting instead on proposals to drive a 10' wide paved path through sensitive parcels protected by conservation easements, exponentially increasing costs. 

Concerns? Cost, environmental impact, project delays, and community opposition

What are the concerns? 

Environmental impact

KTA's plan drives the path over sensitive wetlands. 

Community opposition

KTA disregards opposition voiced by property owner, the easement holder, and other members of the community and TSC.

Aug 2018

Active Transport-ation Plan completed

What happened? 

KT and KSQ presented the plan assembled by Alta, which considers the needs of pedestrians, cyclists, and those using public transportation 

Opportunities? Comprehensive look at options

What are the opportunities? A comprehensive look 

The plan looks far beyond the shared used path envisioned for the Greenway, to include ways to improve the infrastructure on existing streets and alleys within KSQ, as well as hiking trails and on-road cycling routes across Kennett. 

Mar 2019

TSC expanded through Ordinance 283

What happened? 

KTA successfully lobbies KT-BOS to pass Ordinance 283 to add two seats to TSC, including a second member from KTA. 

Concerns? Conflict of Interest

What are the CONCERNS? Conflicts of interest

KT still does not require members of TSC to disclose other interests that may benefit themselves financially and that may influence the advice they give and the votes they cast to forward specific recommendations to the KT-BoS    

May 2019

Moore fired, criminal complaint subsequently filed 

What happened? 

Moore fired after suspicious bank transactions discovered. The criminal complaint later reveal she had stolen $3.2M. 

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Aug 2019

Master Plan for KGW completed 

What happened? 

After years of work carefully mapping out each segment of KGW and meetings with stakeholders, PennTrails presents Master Plan for KGW to the community.

Opportunity? A plan that can realistically project long-term costs and timelines

What are the OPPORTUNITIES? A plan that can realistically project long-term costs and timelines

The analysis revealed important gaps in the route where efforts to acquire properties or easements were in doubt. The plan proposed placing some sections alongside the road, at least temporarily, where the ROW was secured. KTA objects strongly to the plan.  

Sep 2019

Ratliff hired, progress slows

What happened? 

Describing himself as a "wrecking ball", Ratliff moves quickly to fire staff at KT without replacing them.    

X

Mar 2020

Ratliff embargoes KGW Master Plan

What happened? 

Just as the plan is being finalized before being presented to KT BoS to be formally adopted, planning is abruptly and unilaterally stopped by Ratliff because of what we believe to have been KTA's lobbying.

Concerns? Years of work discarded with no public input

What are the CONCERNS? Years of work discarded with no public input

The decision to block the Master Plan was never discussed publicly. KTA's repeated objections to the plans suggest that their lobbying behind the scenes played a major role. Ratliff's unilateral decision undoes thousands of hours of work. Ratliff denied a Right to Know Request to release the documents. 

Apr 2020

PennTrails "withdraws" as KT designer

What happened? 

Ratliff claims that PennTrails is withdrawing because of staffing changes - we understand that they were forced out.    

Concerns? Wasted $$ on designs

What are the CONCERNS? Wasted $$ on designs

Ratliff's unilateral decision to discard the master plan and push PennTrails out with no public input - and apparently at KTA's urging - potentially wastes years of public planning, and tens of thousands of public dollars. It also introduces new delays to a project already years behind schedule

 

New Design Team

 

Total Design $ to date: $827K Cumulative costs incurred with new design team, including costs committed but not spent

Total Construction $ to date: $7.9M Cumulative costs of projects for which commitments to construct have been made, either by spending money on designs, or accepting grants to undertake a project 

Total Miles Constructed to date: 0 

May 2020

Ratliff and KTA install new designers

What happened? 

Ratliff, presumably with KTA's support, immediately brings in a new - and much more expensive - design team. KT-BoS approves Biohabitats as the lead agency.  The fees for designs and pending projects soon begin to add up

Concerns? No public input

What are the CONCERNS?

Additional expenses; No public input

No other agencies were presented for review by TSC of KT-BOS. The Multiple subcontractors automatically increases costs of meetings of the principals involved - $1000/hour when all four principals participate.   

KTA directs $21K to develop Underpass and Birch proposals

Design=$21K

What happened? 

Instead of immediately focusing on the much delayed CMR project, KTA directs the designers to Underpass and Birch St. projects. KT BoS approves $21K for former. 

Concerns? Delays for CMR

What are the CONCERNS?

Additional expenses; No public input

No other agencies were presented for review by TSC of KT-BOS. The Multiple subcontractors automatically increases costs of meetings of the principals involved - $1000/hour when all four principals participate.   

Sep 2020

New $55K and $19K work orders

Design=$95K

What happened? 

KT BoS approves two work orders: - $55K, to review the work of PennTrails, and another $19K to conduct meetings and an Open House.  

Dec 2020

KT BoS rejects CMR proposal but not $76K for meetings

Design=$171K

What happened? 

Biohabitats' proposal based on CMR becoming a one-way is rejected by KT-BoS, despite claims that delays would threaten future grant funding. KT BoS approves $76K over 3 months to support meetings with stakeholders.

Concerns? Delays; Manufactured urgency

What are the CONCERNS?

Delays The need to go back to the drawing table risks losing the grant funding if an extension is not granted.

Increasing costs The $76K for a series of meeting brings the total costs even higher.

Manufactured urgency KTA repeatedly claims that KT BoS must act now, failing to mention KTA's own role in delaying the project by almost two years. 

Jan 2021

$14K to evaluate ELR option

Design=$185K

What happened? 

Biohabitats charges up to $14K to evaluate a design alternative for CMR - an Edge Lane Road (ELR) - that could save significant time and money. They end up ignoring emerging research, and reject the proposal 

Concerns? Alternatives dismissed; Unnecessary expenses

What are the CONCERNS?

Unnecessary expenses Why would KT pay the designers $100s/hour to learn about a new approach?  

Increasing total costs  

Mar 2021

Biohabitats presents community survey results

What happened? 

Biohabitats presents results of community survey that left out key questions and yields little useful information, but that they interpret as providing strong support for CMR

Concerns? Biased analyses

What are the CONCERNS? Biased and flawed analyses

The survey presented the Greenway very positively, with no information about costs or timelines, leading respondents to endorse it. It failed to ask people in the community whether they actually bike or walk trails now.  

Proposed plan for CMR presented (see engineering design)

What happened? 

Biohabitats provides overview with preliminary engineering design costing $4.3M that rejects alternatives. Environ-mental impact and problems with Right of Way are largely ignored.

Concerns? Downplay potential issues

What are the CONCERNS? Downplay potential problems Information about the number of trees to be cut down is buried in the report, never mentioned in public meetings. Likewise, there is no mention of issues regarding Right of Way, and the plan emphases mitigation over the thousands of square feet of floodplain to be impacted.

Sep 2020

KTA advances $1.9M MTF proposal 

Commitment=$2.9M

What happened? 

KTA successfully lobbies KSQ to submit an MTF proposal for the Underpass and Birch St. projects. Total project costs of $2.9M include a $680K match from KSQ, $390K match from KT, and a potential contribution from SqRts but only in case of cost over-runs 

Concerns? Total projects=$2.9M; Path to nowhere; Potential conflicts of interest

What are the CONCERNS?

Projects=$2.9M The $2.9M project, if granted, requires significant resources from KT and KSQ to implement.

Path to nowhere There is no clear plan or timeframe for the $1M Underpass to connect to any path to the north

Conflicts of Interest? SqRts is not asked to disclose if any of its owners or affiliated business will benefit. It commits to contribute $250K only to over excess.  

Apr 2021

Biohabitats "updates" impact on trees

What happened? 

After the public realizes that 295 trees will be cut down, Biohabitats "updates" findings to minimize the impact, but still hides the actual number. They plan on replacing 50 year-olds trees with 3' "whips" and play up plans to utilize "recycled wood products" to mitigate concerns.

Concerns? Downplay environmental impact 

What are the CONCERNS? Downplay impact Biohabitats claims that the number of trees is less of an issue because some are Ash, or non-native, and falsely claim that they all threaten power lines.  They still fail to specify  the number of healthy trees lost. 

$400K MTF grant awarded for Birch and Underpass

What happened? 

The $1.9M MTF submission submitted in September was partially funded, requiring that a second submission be prepared

x

May 2021

KTA blocks alternatives to its "vision" for CMR

What happened? 

Concerns that current plans leave CMR uncomfortable for most cyclists leads to a proposal for modifications, which KTA and then KT BoS refuse to consider or publicly share. 

Concerns? Refusal to consider alternatives 

What are the CONCERNS? Refusal to consider alternatives KTA refused to allow safety concerns related to cyclists to be heard or alternatives be presented. Leff later refuses to allow the alternative design to be publicly shared, 6 months later, KTA reverses course on safety concerns to consider adjustments to design.   

Jun 2021

"Final" $630K design for CMR

Design=$815K

Commitment=$7.9M

What happened? 

KT approves Biohabitats' $630K request to begin "final design" for plan presented in March, projecting $4.3M in construction. Claims that it is urgent to begin the project and the design is "final" later prove misleading .

Concerns? Incomplete design; Manufactured urgency

What are the CONCERNS? Incomplete design

KTA pushes to commit $600+K, an extremely expensive design that assumes that landowners will cede property to KT, and that leaves safety concerns unresolved.

Manufactured urgency KTA again asserts that it is important to move ahead with construction or lose the grant. They reverse themselves 6 months later, 

New MTF  submission for Birch and Underpass

What happened? 

KTA successfully lobbies for new grant application to cover outstanding $1.5M for Birch and Underpass projects

X

Oct 2021

KTA refuses to discuss proposal to narrow CMR path

What happened? 

KTA relies on false claims to counter suggestions to narrow the CMR sidepath to 3' as needed in certain sections to protect trees, slopes, and floodplains

Concerns? Refusal to consider alternatives; Misleading claims; Environmental impact

Concerns? Refusal to consider alternatives KTA quickly moves to squash any discussion of alternatives that were already approved as part of the original grant proposal 

Misleading claims KTA falsely claims a 3' path is not accessible, and is "dangerous" for wheelchair users

Environmental impact Analyses later suggest that this could save many of the over 100 healthy, mature trees worth protecting on the route. 

Total damage to trees under-estimated 

What happened? 

After questioning, designers admit they have not formally accounted for the extent of damage to trees not cut down. KTA refuses to provide accurate information about assessments needed or the total impact. 

Concerns? Environmental impact; Lack of transparency

What are the CONCERNS? Environmental impact; Lack of transparency  We discover that some trees may suffer significant damage - sometimes risking later loss - and that this was not being accounted for. When queried, KTA provides misleading information that would suggest this this is not a problem, and then fails to follow-up concerns. 

 

Nov 2021

$12K more to understand traffic

Design=$827K

What happened? 

After denying potential safety concerns in advancing to final design, Biohabitats requests an additional $12K to evaluate new traffic calming measures. Final plan incorporates options originally dismissed in May 2021 as unecessary 

Concerns? Delays; Increasing costs

What are the CONCERNS? 

Delays This introduces avoidable delays not just for the traffic study, but for the design changes likely to result. 

Increasing costs The likely design changes will probably add to the escalating construction costs, 

KT Capital plan  reveals escalating local trail costs: $7.9M over 5 years 

What happened? 

Following concerns raised by citizens, KT presented a 5-year Capital budget revealing very significant costs and commitments for other projects, even though most trails will remain disconnected.  

Concerns? Competing budgets

What are the CONCERNS? Competing budgets $7.9M for paths (including South St) in KT alone will be competing with a similar amount for road and other projects, even as other costs (Fire/EMS, Police, Sewer) appear likely to increase. This budget does not create connections north for CMR or the Underpass. 

Dec 2021

CMR construction delayed until 2023 without explanation 

What happened? 

KTs 2022 budget includes no construction costs for CMR. KTA offers no clear explanation when pressed.   

Concerns? Lack of transparency; Further delays

What are the CONCERNS? Lack of transparency; Further delays  The failure to inform TSC, or to offer a credible defense underscores how KTA and Ratliff feel little need to confer with the public.  The refusal to discuss design changes arising from new traffic studies, and other issues surfacing later, suggest an intent to conceal delays.

Feb 2022

Negotiations with landowners delayed

What happened? 

We discover that negotiations with landowners whose land is needed to complete the path along CMR were far from complete - and in one case had not even started - even though plans had been presented in June as "final".  

Concerns? Delays; Incomplete design

What are the CONCERNS? Delays The failure to advance negotiations will lead to new delays, and new costs as designs must be re-adjusted.

Incomplete design It is clear that the rush to approve $600K of final design in June was premature, as one landowner's likely refusal to cede land will compel significant design changes. 

Red Clay Park proposal advanced and later withdrawn

What happened? 

KTA successfully lobbies KSQ to support grant proposal for Red Clay Park with many promises but few details. After concerns are raised, the proposal is withdrawn and later replaced with a demonstration project funded entirely by Square Roots covering less than 5% of the proposed park

What are the CONCERNS? Delays The failure to advance negotiations will lead to new delays, and new costs as designs must be re-adjusted.

Incomplete design It is clear that the rush to approve $600K of final design in June was premature, as one landowner's likely refusal to cede land will compel significant design changes. 

Apr 2022

Concerns about conflicts of interest raised

What happened? 

During a public meeting to discuss a resolution requiring committee chairs to be township residents, several shared concerns, noting that Norland is effectively acting as a paid lobbyist for a private business.  

Concerns? Conflicts of interest

What are the CONCERNS? Conflicts of interest Norland is a paid employee of a private business whose interests remain undisclosed. Norland did not volunteer details regarding the nature of the business interests.