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Park pitched for Claymont riverfront

Coastal Resilience Design Studio (CRDS) / University of Delaware

As the developers of the massive First State Crossing project in north Claymont move forward with their plans, the Claymont Renaissance Development Corporation is pushing a proposal that could make the area even more attractive – a riverfront park that would include event and entertainment spaces, athletic fields, walking and biking trails, and even a marina.

Claymont Renaissance reached out earlier this year to the Coastal Resilience Design Studio (CRDS), a student-led work group and the University of Delaware, for advice on how to best develop the underutilized area along the Delaware River that once was part of the now-closed steel mill that dominated the local landscape for more than a century.

“The results have been outstanding,” said Brett Saddler, Claymont Renaissance executive director, after reviewing the 60-page report. “The ideas generated by this student-led group were completely in line with the community’s vision of a redeveloped Claymont Steel.”

“UD hit it out of the park,” said Steve Collins, executive vice president of the St. Louis-based Commercial Development Company (CDC), which is developing First State Crossing. He called the plan “very impressive.”

In the past week, Saddler has presented the park plan to Gov. John Carney, New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer and others interested in Claymont’s revitalization. In a letter to Carney and Meyer, Saddler noted that three other not-for-profit organizations – Delaware Greenways, the Council of Civic Organizations of Brandywine Hundred and the Eastern Brandywine Hundred Coordinating Council – support the park proposal.

Credit Coastal Resilience Design Studio (CRDS) / University of Delaware
Coastal Resilience Design Studio (CRDS), a student-led work group, and the University of Delaware developed this Claymont Riverfront park plan. (click to enlarge)

The park would be built on land now owned by CDC. Although no formal offer has been made, Collins said CDC would be willing to donate the acreage to the state or the county, should they desire to implement the park plan.

Richard Hall, general manager of the county’s Land Use Department, has heard of the plan but had not seen it as of early this week. “It’s certainly something that’s worth looking at. The county doesn’t have much waterfront property like that,” he said.

However, he cautioned, even if the land is donated, “nothing is free” and any government agency that would be interested in the park would have to consider both development and annual maintenance costs.

“We have a once in a lifetime opportunity to acquire and create an astonishing wate3rfront public space on a former steel mill industrial site,” Saddler said. “Claymont’s children and grandchildren will thank us for investing in their future.”

Since construction of Interstate 495 began in the late 1960s, Claymont residents have not had direct access to the Delaware River, Saddler said.

The park, dubbed Electric Arc Park by the UD student group to commemorate the arc furnaces used in the old steel mill, would extend north along the river from the current Claymont train station, wrapping around the 926-unit riverfront townhouse and apartment community planned for First State Crossing and ending where Naamans Creek flows into the river.

Credit Coastal Resilience Design Studio (CRDS) / University of Delaware
The Claymont Riverfront park plan envision a marina on one part of the land avaialble

The marina and boat launch would be positioned at the north end of the park, near Naamans Creek. In addition to its recreational value, Saddler said this amenity would give the Claymont Fire Company a platform for expanding its river safety operations.

Four miles of trails are proposed, some along the river and some along the rail line. Those trails would also provide connectivity beyond the park, linking with the Maine-to-Florida East Coast Greenway and existing Delaware Greenway trails that run southward to Fox Point Park.

The large area in the center of the park would be dedicated to athletic activities – with a soccer field, basketball and tennis courts, a baseball or softball diamond and a disc golf course. A bark park is also part of the plan.

Close to the water, the plan proposes a 112-seat amphitheater that would be used for musical and theatrical performances.

The park proposal also calls for restoration and preservation of wetlands along the river. A combination of a breakwater, aquatic vegetation and nature-based materials such as coir logs would be used to strengthen and re-establish wetlands.

Saddler says the park, if developed, would help draw attention to Claymont’s historic landmarks, including the Darley House, the Robinson House, the Stone School, Hickman Row and the Patio at Archmere Academy.

The Claymont Renaissance Development Corporation is planning a community meeting in November to present the park concept and open a discussion between local residents and state and county elected officials. An announcement of the time and location of the meeting will be posted on the organization’s Facebook page.

Claymont Riverfront Oct 2021 - Final by Delaware Public Media on Scribd