New Castle County held a public brainstorming session to hear what Middletown residents want and don't want in the new park.
Pickleball courts, splash pads, softball fields and horseback riding. These were only a few of the more than 60 amenities Middletown residents want for its new park.
At a public brainstorming session at the Appoquinimink Community Library Dec. 3, New Castle County Parks and Recreation Department got ideas about what the community wants – and doesn’t – want in the 80-acre Middletown Park.
Middletown Park will be on county-owned property on Shallcross Lake Road off Marl Pit Road. The spot was picked in June and has been a 100-acre cornfield leased by the county to private farmers.
Lead architect Peter Simone from Simone Collins Landscape Architecture led the meeting and asked for anything the attendees could possibly want. He pinned what each person suggested up on the wall.
Simone said every idea will be considered, no matter how big or small.
“It’s the community’s park. We want to try to design what the community wants,” he said.
Bike trails, playground equipment, recreational sports fields and courts, proper lighting, and multiple parking areas and entry points were among topics mentioned several times.
Kendall Sommers, New Castle County parks division manager, said all the ideas were great, but no specific suggestion stuck out the most.
“My first impression of the [ideas] on the wall is ‘Wow, how are we going to get all this stuff in here,’” she said. “But they are typical things that I would imagine being a part of the park and hope to fit as much in as we can.”
Sommers said it will be comparable to Newark’s Paper Mill Park.
“Paper Mill Park is not quite as big as this parcel, so [Middletown Park] will probably have more,” she said. “It has a mix of passive recreation and active recreation, nothing that is fully developed. There are some sports fields there, but it’s basically open multi-purpose fields.”
Of 248 county parks, only five are below the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal, county executive Matt Meyer said. He wants this park to help address that.
“We want to make sure south of canal, Middletown-Odessa-Townsend area, you are getting the same level of services for the taxes you pay.”
Simone said most of what people suggested was not unusual compared to other park development processes he has gone through.
“Our job is to try and match what people would like to see to the land, and try to create something that’s efficient and functional,” he said.
Making the park beautiful and putting in amenities that will be applicable for 100 years is a priority.
The residents who were most invested in the park’s potential were neighbor. When Simone asked for people who live nearby, almost all hands went up. About 473 homes will be within a 1-mile radius, considered walking distance.
About 30,000 residents live within five miles of the site, according to the county.
Many of those present expressed concern for noise and increased traffic.
Simone said both are likely to increase, but it’s too early in the process to know if it will be significant.
In 2017, the county formed a task force of southern New Castle County residents to get recommendations for the community’s needs. Residents said they wanted a central site and for the county to spend responsibly.
The cost will be determined once a plan is finished.
The county is hoping to have a final plan done by the end of 2020. Construction will likely not begin until 2024.
The next public meeting will be March 4.