INFORMATION

Meeting Minutes-Blue Ball Property Development

Meeting: Recreation/Historic Preservation Technical Committee
Date: November 3, 1999
Location: Bellevue House, New Castle County, Delaware

  1. Introduction
    Mark Chura, Committee Chair, welcomed attendees and reviewed the goal of the meeting. That was to narrow the range of alternatives so the consultants could focus upon refining a preferred set and integrating them with transportation alternatives.
  2. Assumptions/Preliminary Conclusions
    Bill Roberts of Wallace Roberts & Todd reviewed the plan schedule, noting that the next Technical Committee meetings are scheduled for December 1 and 15. These meetings will focus upon development of the preferred concept for recreation/historic preservation. Mr. Roberts then presented a series of assumptions and preliminary conclusions the Technical Committee had developed over the course of the last several meetings. These are:
    • Provide Conservation Areas with wildlife habitat enhancement.
    • Provide for Storm Water Management (east and west of 202).
    • Provide Wetland Mitigation (east and west of 202).
    • Provide Greenway Crossing of 202.
    • Restore and re-use historic Blue Ball Dairy Barn.
    • Design Park Roads that provide access to the park and accommodate local traffic.
  3. Issues/Options
    Mr. Roberts also presented the major issues identified by the Committee to date. The issues were illustrated by a series of seven Recreation/Historic Alternatives prepared by WRT in response to the previous meeting. The alternatives are available for inspection on the project web site (www.blueball.net). The alternatives and the issue/option lists were used to focus a Committee discussion facilitated by Mark Chura as follows. Rock Manor Golf Course Options:
    1. Add 2 holes
    2. Add 2 holes and practice/teaching facility
    3. No expansion
    • The course handles 65,000 rounds per year - it is at current capacity.
    • City of Wilmington representative expressed support for a separate teaching/driving range facility.
    • Concern was expressed by a number of members regarding recreational facilities - not limited to golf, but including fields - that attract large numbers of people and resultant traffic.
    • Strong support was expressed to examine the entire current golf course property for potential course improvement through redesign that would include storm water management as an attraction.
    • Storm water management on the course, and elsewhere on the property, should address both quantity and quality issues.
    • The golf course is now approximately 5,800 yards long. The operator noted that an approximately 6,800-yard course would be a significant improvement and help to return it to its pre-i_95 status.
    • Idea of enlarging length of course, as distinguished from adding holes, to return it to its championship status (pre I-95 land taking) received strong support.
    • Potential use of some land west of Route 202, accessed by the greenway underpass was offered as one way to accommodate longer course. It was noted that this is an active recreation use and not the conservation/passive use that the Committee has supported.
    • It was noted that the course is owned by the City of Wilmington and managed by an outside operator. The City is now studying its options and preferences for long term use and management of the course.
    • Committee consensus was reached on the following:
      1. The teaching facility is very important and should be included in future plans.
      2. The plans should enhance what is currently there and the consultants should examine the entire property to determine best reconfiguration with a teaching facility and lengthened course.
      3. Number one priority is the teaching facility, number 2 course improvement and lengthening (not additional holes).
      4. The course should continue to be an affordable course.
      5. Consideration should be given to recruiting Northern Delaware Greenway that now connects through Weldin Ridge to a new location along the edge of the golf course.
    Reservoir Expansion Options:
    1. Maximum storage on each side of 202
    2. Storage only on east side of 202
    3. No reservoir expansion
    • Mark Chura noted that DNREC Secretary DiPasquale stated that the Blue Ball properties were not acquired to be a major solution to the water supply problems of New Castle County, and water storage could not come at the expense of the recreational amenities and adaptive reuse of historic structure commitments make to the community.
    • Some small-scale water storage for storm water, designed and configured as ponds, could be accommodated if they also served recreational needs.
    • Storm water management must be integrated into storage in an attractive manner.
    • Porter might be redesigned in a more attractive manner that could both accommodate more storage and recreational use.
    • Several comments were made to the effect that Porter Reservoir is more of an engineered structure than an attractive feature. And even without expansion or addition its appearance (fence, landscaping, etc.) might be enhanced.
    • Committee consensus was reached on the following:
      1. A major water storage reservoir should not be located on the Blue Ball properties.
      2. A number of smaller ponds, perhaps integrating storm water management, could potentially be located on the property.
      3. Any new water features should be designed to integrate with the natural landscape.
    Active Recreation Fields Options:
    1. Modest program
    2. Medium program
    3. Maximum program (with golf expansion)
    • Questions were raised concerning the long-term management of recreational assets. It was noted that the State typically does not enter into management agreements with private groups while the County does. Long term management issues are not a part of the Master Plan.
    • The Concord Soccer Association presented facts concerning their usage of soccer facilities: activity has grown from 800 players two years ago to 1,200 this year; they've had to turn interested players away because of insufficient available fields; they are now using 15 fields to capacity; they believe they could raise sufficient funds to construct and maintain five new soccer fields if given the land; they would be happy to share field use with field hockey and lacrosse.
    • Concord Soccer Association's preference is for five new soccer fields on the blue Ball properties for a total of approximately 10 acres for this use.
    • John Husband noted that any fields the County enters into agreement with private groups are allocated on a permit basis i.e., the group is permitted exclusive use only during precisely described hours and the general public is allowed access at other times.
    • It was noted that there is an increasing demand for all sports including dramatic growth in non-competitive league play.
    • Several members expressed the hope that, once a preferred plan is selected later in the year, the consultants pay close attention to design of the actual facilities to provide the best facilities in the best setting with minimal impacts to the natural environment and neighbors.
    • Concerns were expressed regarding traffic generation by heavy field use. The additional comment was made that the traffic associated with the field is typically not at peak hour, but is earlier and on weekends.
    • Committee consensus was reached on the following:
      1. Active field use should be located on the east of Route 202.
      2. The Blue Ball properties should accommodate a compliment of multiple use fields occupying between 5 and 15 acres plus any amenities.
      3. In keeping with the proposed natural character of the area, fields should be provided for low impact sports including soccer, field hockey, and lacrosse, but should not include football, tennis, or basketball.
      4. All fields should have natural surfaces.
      5. Special park areas for a children's playground and a dog park should be provided.