Note - Letters reprinted here are from people all over the county exercising their First Amendment right to free speech. I withheld these previously out of respect for the property owners, who despite their provocative actions, were free to use their property in any way they chose to. But when the owner's letter to a local newspaper editor publicly attacked and smeared local officials, who are responding to CONSTITUENT calls for preserving this property, the owners crossed a line of decorum that demands both sides be heard...please read on to find The Rest Of The Story. Why ARE so many of us moved to action on this particular issue???
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Dear Friends of the Struble Trail,
I am so glad to hear about your activities on behalf of restoring public access to the entire Struble Trail. This Rails to Trails path is an invaluable jewel in the crown of Chester County open space, and an intrinsic part of the quality of life for Downingtown area residents such as myself. I urge your group to use every means legally available and necessary to ensure that the [owners] are held accountable for any illegal acts, and for any harmful consequences of these same acts. I further support your efforts to obtain title to the property currently owned by the [owners], by any legal means at your disposal, and I plan to support any of your fundraising and advocacy efforts to the best of my ability.
- - - STRICKEN TRAIL USER INCIDENT CORRESPONDENCE - - -
This letter was sent Friday, October 5th. Friends of the Struble Trail verified the incident with Uwchlan Ambulance Corps and two witnesses on the trail. How can local officials continue to ignore our safety and allow the north Struble Trail access (and the dam access as well!) to remain closed???!
At about 10 AM yesterday morning, October 4, the Uwchlan ambulance service vehicle came to the aid of a male jogger who collapsed on the Struble trail about 0.7 mile north of the Dowlin Forge Rd access entrance to the trail. According to the first person who came across the jogger while walking her dogs,the jogger was initially unconscious, was bleeding from the nose, and was very cold to the touch, with finger tips colored a bluish tint. A second person arrived at the scene shortly thereafter and contacted the ambulance service via cell phone.
I contacted the Uwchlan ambulance corps and spoke to one of the emergency medical technicians who aided the stricken jogger and was told the following:
1. The ambulance corps went to the Dorlan Mill Road entrance to access Struble trail, since the person in need was only about 0.2 mile south on the trail from this access point. However the emergency personnel were confronted there by a high chain link fence which the current property owner has recently erected to bar trail access from this entrance. The emergency technicians weighed the possibility of driving through the fence to reach the victim. However, they then discovered that the current property owner has felled large trees across the trail access-path about 75 feet south of the fence, completely barring any vehicle from getting onto the trail.
2. Because of these trail barriers, and because of the near impossibility of making a u-turn at the location due to the size of the EMT vehicle, plus the presence of newly erected chain link fence on both shoulders of Dorlan Mill Road (again by the same property owner), the ambulance corps was forced to cross over the Brandywine to 282 south, back-track to Dowlin Forge road, and loop around to the Struble trail entrance at the intersection of Dowlin Forge and Shelmire roads. This back-track loop took 6 minutes to complete. The ambulance then had to gain access to Struble trail, consuming one minute, and then proceed down the narrow, user-congested path for 0.7 mile to reach the stricken jogger. This added 0.5 miles of Struble trail travel, versus the originally intended route. At 10 miles per hour this added another 3 minutes to the rescue time.
3. [An estimated] 10 minutes of precious time were wasted trying to reach the stricken jogger because of the lack of trail access at Dorlan Mill road. In the opinion of EMT personnel, as little as 6 minutes can constitute a life-saving difference in any given rescue situation.
Notwithstanding whatever issues, plans, posturings, negotiations, politiking, etc. may be in play between the current property owner and the responsible municipalities and governmental agencies in Uwchlan, Upper Uwchlan, and Chester County, it is unconscionable that the result of these machinations could have resulted in tragedy. The governmental officials who have oversight responsibility for the safety and welfare of the many people who use the Struble Trail need to take immediate, effective action to re-open trail access at Dorlan Mill road at once. Moreover, the current property owner should act as a decent and responsible steward for trail access while working out whatever issues there may be, rather than acting only with vindictive, mean-spirited and self-serving motivation. Actions, or lack thereof, by all the involved parties in this current situation are truly disgraceful, and as this incident report documents, have brought about a very real public hazard.
Respectfully submitted by Robert H.
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I find it absolutely appalling what is happening on the trail. Whatever a person's fights may be with the general populace (over what is a quality-of-life issue for all of us--we in particular moved back to this local area specifically because of the Struble and other local green features), putting people at risk for serious or life-threatening harm is for me a last-straw issue, socially as well at politically. Candidates, are you paying attention?? As many local residents who use the trail have health issues--indeed, excercising in such a peaceful, oxygen-rich setting is a crucial part of their path to wellness--I can only foresee ample opportunity for such a tragic occurence to repeat itself. I shudder to think what could occur if something happened to me, my husband, or (God forbid) our toddler should we require medical assistance that is unable to reach us during one of our frequent forays on the trail.
Mrs. J. Thomson
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As former manager of The Chester County Running Store, I've personally used this trail for running and biking multiple times each week for the past decade. In years past, we as a local business have utilized both the Struble Trail and Marsh Creek State park via the access road countless times. We've organized numerous local charity events, races, and training groups that support community growth as well as bring exposure to our great town and park system. Morally and environmentally, what is happening here is just wrong. Up until now, the agenda of these property owners has simply been an inconvenience. Now; the fact that this man is intentionally destroying the environment, and erecting fences that are compromising the health and safety of citizens using this park system is terribly disturbing. Perhaps now that a tragedy has been realized, something will be done to end this nonsense.
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This letter is on the Philadelphia Inquirer Website, October 7th. (FriendsOfTheStrubleTrail has no knowledge of any plans the Chester County Commissioners may or may not be considering):
Inform, don't hide
Let's see. Felled trees now bar the path that linked the Struble Trail to Marsh Creek State Park, with an ugly six-foot fence thrown in for good measure. A sign on the fence rubs the trail's closure in the face of hikers, and tries to bully them into pressuring government officials on behalf of the owner's grandiose development plans. Yet our county commissioner responds to the owner's North Korean-style negotiating by refusing to divulge details of these plans?
[The County Commissioners] should be informing [their] constituents, not keeping them in the dark. And no one should reward public bullying by treating it as just another element in negotiations taking place behind closed doors.
Doing so only compounds the slap in the face the public has already been dealt by the obnoxious closing of the Struble Trail-Marsh Creek connection.
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Please put my name on the petition... The preservation of open space concerns all Chester County residents. The Struble Trail system was implemented for all of us no matter where we live in the county. The County Commissioners should be the ones leading the effort to take back that section of the trail.
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This letter was sent to Representative Curt Schroder, who forwarded a copy to Friends:
Dear Rep. Schroder,
On Saturday, I took my children to the rally for maintaining access to Struble Trail from Downingtown. Thank you for your efforts on this project.
They made a compelling argument for the outright purchase of the Shryock Property at the head of Struble Trail. I support efforts to extend and connect our trail system throughout the Commonwealth.
PA's environmental record has been "spotty." The Clean Water Act has helped considerably but the advances of that project may be lost by development. It is my belief that we should preserve waterways from development where we can.
In this case, we have the opportunity to purchase outright a great parcel of land that will unite public lands along the Brandywine Creek.
For many reasons, uniting Downingtown and Marsh Creek State Park with public land is wise and necessary. I respectfully request that you continue to push for a timely conversion of the Shryock Property to public land.
This letter was sent to the Editor of the Daily Local News. The author (previously unknown to Friends of the Struble Trail) forwarded a copy to us:
To the Editor:
Anne Pickering’s recent article was fine as far as it went, but instead of just reporting what people say, it would help to look behind the words for reality.
- Why is Upper Uwchlan being called upon to shoulder this burden? County and state officials shouldn’t be asking the supervisors of Upper Uwchlan to cover for their lack of political willpower. Struble Trail is a county trail linking to a state park. Is it in the public’s interest to have the trailhead and link to Marsh Creek? If the answer is yes, then the solution to this issue is straightforward; the use of eminent domain by the county. This isn’t a case of taking someone’s ancestral home. The [owners] bought the property as an investment. There’s nothing wrong with the [owner]’s doing so, but there’s no law that says their real estate speculation will be profitable. I suspect state and county officials are hoping Upper Uwchlan will come to some kind of development settlement that will provide the trail without the need for anything except money. The Coatesville case has frightened public officials into timidity even when the public interest is clear.
- Why are state and county officials depending on the Natural Lands Trust to find money? This isn’t about money (except on the [owner]’s part). If the county condemned the land, the appraisal will be done based on the zoning in effect at the time, not what the [owners] wish it was. If the [owners] don’t like the appraisal, they can appeal to court and they’ll see what a judge decides in about 5 years. The $4.8 million price tag they’re throwing around is likely meaningless without the zoning approval to make the land that valuable. The point is there’s no need to scramble about looking for grants and such. Let an appraiser decide its value and let a judge settle any disputes. Returning the land to public use doesn’t have to wait for the outcome of the appraisal fight, either. It becomes public land immediately.
- What does damage to the [owner]’s fence have to do with anything? The [owner]’s didn’t have to put up the fence taking away long-standing public access. They did so because they believed it would help them get what they want. [The owner] claims an Upper Uwchlan supervisor asked her to put up the fence to prevent graffiti and vandalism. Fine. They could have blocked off the old factory to accomplish that, but instead they choose to block everything. And it can’t be about liability fears because Pennsylvania law specifically protects landowners who allow public use of their land for recreational purposes. No, I suspect the [owner]s wanted to create public pressure on Upper Uwchlan officials to give them the zoning authorization they want.
- The [owners] should quit crying about how they’ve been trying to get a development plan approved. Here’s an easy way to get your plan approved, Ms. [Owner]. Make it comply with Upper Uwchlan’s ordinances. Then Upper Uwchlan has to be approve it.
- The old factory is virtually useless. Anyone who believes a restaurant or hotel would survive in that location doesn’t know anything about either business. Dozens of restaurants go out of business in Chester County each year that have the advantage of far better location than that old factory.
Enough with the spin from both sides. Two of the county commissioners aren’t running for reelection. If necessary, they could vote to use eminent domain and allow the other public officials to hide. Either way, this whole thing could get done in short order by exercising some political courage on behalf of the public’s interest.
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Dear Friends of the Struble Trail:
Please include my name in support of preserving the Struble Trail.
My husband and I regularly -- daily -- run on the Struble Trail. As a
family, we take strolls along the trail several times a month.
[The owners] have been shameless in dropping trees across the trail,
erecting numerous fences and engaging in a pattern of harassment to all
trail users in an effort to extort or otherwise 'cajole' elected
officials to approve their vague development plans.
I am surprised that the Township does not have a claim for a
prescriptive easement or adverse possession of the portion of the trail
for which the [owners] claim ownership. The Township should take the
property by eminent domain or similar condemnation type proceedings.
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My wife and I use the Struble Trail many times each week for running,
biking and walking. The trail is one of the county's great assets and
must be maintained and kept open for public usage. Recent blockage by
the Shryock Brothers company is offensive to the current users as well
as all of Chester County's citizens.
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I am a resident of Uwchlan township and have lived and worked in this
area with my family for 10 years. I, like thousands of others each year,
use the trail to access the lake from Dorlan Mills Road and wish to see
that access be available for everyone now and in the future.
Regarding the person at the center of this controversy. His attempts to
appear like the victim in all this are overshadowed by the fact that he
has acted in a very spiteful and childish way by erecting fences, [allegedly]
cutting down healthy beautiful trees to form barriers and [allegedly]
placing nails in the path to intentionally injure hikers and bikers.
There are trees right now that have been cut but are leaning
precariously and ready to fall with a strong wind on some unsuspecting
hiker. This behavior should indicate to you that you are negotiating
with a [person who] would enjoy nothing more than to strong arm the
residents and local politicians in his attempt to extort millions of dollars
from the taxpayers of Chester County and the state of Pennsylvania.
Please hear our voice and do the right thing for all of the users of one
of Chester County's most beautiful resources.
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I walk on the trail six days a week and have been upset by the recent
happenings thanks to the [owner]. What a crime to cut down trees just
so people can't walk on his property. I would be very pleased to sign
anything that would work toward conserving the property. It would be
wonderful to have the trail extended to the lake.
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I use the trail for walking. It is one place where I can go and walk and enjoy the nature. It is very peaceful and calming. Hearing the water and seeing the wildlife is very soothing. I used to park at the papermill. Now because we can’t do that anymore, the other lots are often full and people are parking on the sides of the roads. It is sometimes impossible to get a spot anywhere so I often have to go home an walk the neighborhood. While this is still an option, it is not the same.
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I use the trail every day to jog and walk my dog. We access the trail from our driveway. Access to such a wonderful trail system was one of the reasons we purchased our house in Uwchlan Township. It is extremely important to us that the trail, along with the surrounding land, remain undeveloped open space. Any additional development will compromise the wildlife living in the area, along with the quality of life that we truly appreciate as residents. Local officials should also note (although I don't know if they will receive the entire body of this e-mail) that I am a registered voter and I will be following the progress of this issue closely. Any government decisions to allow development of this land will factor significantly in my future voting choices.
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I use the Struble trail to ride into Marsh Creek state park. This
requires going beyond the end of the Struble trail to get to Dorlan Mill
Rd., Then a somewhat dangerous ride up Dorlan Mill Rd to the Dam
Entrance road into Marsh Creek. To Ride across Dorlan Mill Road requires
crossing a blind corner. Now that the owner of the Shryrock Mill
property has blocked these two entrances, it is removing access to and
from the Struble trail and Marsh Creek.
I would strongly believe extending the Struble trail to connect to the
Marsh Creek trail system is an obvious benefit to the general public.
To have a great park like Marsh Creek and to have a great trail system
like the Struble and Uwchlan trails be literally a couple hundred yards
apart and no connection is a shame.
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It's a wonderful thing that you have put together this coalition of
concerned citizens to help save the property around the Struble Trail. I
was dumbfounded when I saw the trail blocked last year, and very
irritated by what I heard about [the owner] and his wild ideas. I just
hope that he does not get what he wants. There are too many people out
there like him, these days, that really could care less about much else
than making big bucks at others' expense. In this case the "others" are
not just people, but more importantly, our surrounding native wildlife.
I don't understand how people like him can rip the land out from under
townships, the state park, and the county park system, and live with
themselves at the end of the day.
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I am writing to show support for a quick resolution to ending the
standoff between what I consider to be a rogue developer and the
residents of Chester County. I believe this developer is holding the
recreational use of the trail and access to Marsh Creek State Park
hostage to get his way with Upper Uwchlan Township and I do not believe
he should be rewarded for his unscrupulous acts. I have been quoted in
the local paper as supporting Eminent Domain for this case and those are
not words I take lightly. I believe that property owner's rights should
be protected at all times, but in a case where a developer is
intentionally leveraging the recreation of thousands of county residents
and is knowingly forcing county residents onto a very dangerous Rt. 282
that he knows he is rolling the dice. It is one thing to protect the
family farm and another to endanger and enrage your neighbors so you can
make millions of dollars on a development that should not be built in
the first place.
For the last thirty years thousands of local fishermen, hikers,
cyclists, runners, and hunters have been using the north end of the
Struble Trail to access the park and the Brandywine creek, but [the
owner']s actions have closed off this access. I am asking you to move to
find a quick resolution to this problem that secures this area for the
recreational use of our county's residents.
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Having been a resident of this area for over 20 years I have seen many changes to the community. But the one area that should be "off limits" is the Struble Trail. My husband and I have walked more times than we can remember, even tried cross country skiing on it. We have so much development going on in the county. Shouldn't the park be left in its natural state? At the rate of development that is going on, the county will be covered in concrete, then it will be too late! I now have the pleasure of walking my grandchildren along the park. These are the memories that cannot be replaced. Just ask yourself, "Do we really need another shopping center, strip mall or Mcmansions?" Please save the area so future generations can enjoy what we have had the pleasure of enjoying for so many years. Isn't it time we start to think of the environment and preserve a precious place!
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wife, Theresa and I, have lived in the Downingtown/Chester Springs are
for 27 years and have walked the trails many times. We agree with the
petition to save the Shryock property. Thank you.
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I use the trail for both running and fishing access. When we moved
here a year ago from Syracuse, NY we chose this area out of all of the
suburbs of Philadelphia because of the tremendous outdoor
opportunities. We need to keep that character of this area. Also, as
an environmental scientist working close to Philadephia, I see first
hand the degradation of streams with impaired streamside buffers.
Protection of these zones should be a priority. Many of our streams
in Chester County are right on the edge of moving into the 'beyond
repair' category and the time to act is now!
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The Valley Forge Chapter of Trout Unlimited and its over 700 members strongly endorse the Struble Trail Petition.
We encourage the local, county, and state officials to pursue efforts to acquire and preserve the extension of the Struble Trail and the environmentally sensitive land contiguous to Marsh Creek State Park and the East Branch of the Brandywine River. Since the East Branch of the Brandywine River is a cold water fishery the essence of the petition fits perfectly with the mission of Valley Forge Trout Unlimited. That mission is to Preserve Protect and Restore the cold water fisheries of Chester County, Pennsylvania. Not only does the preservation of this land protect habitat and continue a wildlife corridor but it also will help mitigate the effects of stormwater runoff.
Open space protection is very important in our urbanizing suburbs. The passive use of open space is important to our entire community. We at the Valley Forge Chapter of Trout Unlimited look forward to the opportunity to work with you in the education of your residents in environmental matters and the value of clean cold water.
The Valley Forge Chapter of Trout Unlimited extends its strongest support for this petition.
Very Truly Yours,
W.E. “Pete” Goodman, III
Valley Forge Chapter of Trout Unlimited
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Last October my friend and I walked the Breast Cancer 3Day in Philadelphia. We spent 6 months training for this 3day 60 mile walk. By August we were walking 6 hours at one time. Without the Struble Trail and the Uwchlan Trail it would have been much more difficult for us. These are the only local trails that are long enough and SHADY. I really felt lucky to have such a great place to walk that didn’t take me on the narrow roadways in Chester County. How wonderful it would have been to feel safe to continue on to Marsh Creek. The opportunity to extend this really wonderful trail shouldn’t be missed!!! As we walked often for 30 miles a week we really enjoyed saying hello to the fellow walkers on the trail, watching the children swimming in the creek and Moms & Dads with little children on their bikes or walking on a safe trail. With all the talk today about obesity in our population we really need to support safe areas to walk and bike.
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I feel this trail should be preserved throughout all time. This trail has been used in my family since its existance....PLEASE preserve!!
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I am signing the above petition to save and protect the Stuble Trail. My family and I use it often for hiking and biking safely. I have two young children that also enjoy fishing and wildlife observation.
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I both ride and run the Struble Trail on a fairly regular basis. I have enjoyed running the north end of the Struble Trail, then running up the hill and trailrunning back in Marsh Creek. Several friends and I used
to meet at the north end parking lot and mountainbike up to the dam in Marsh Creek as well. We miss
being able to do that. Access to the south end of Marsh Creek State Park is cumbersome without this connection to the Struble Trail.
I would like to see a resolution for this and am happy to sign the petition!
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As an avid birder, I have been
using the Struble Trail for the past nine years to collect essential
data of avian life along this portion of the Brandywine. Presently,
this data collection is being used for the 2nd Pennsylvania Breeding
Bird Atlas (see pabirdatlas.org) that is being conducted statewide from
2004-2008. One of the blocks that I monitor (and live within) includes
more than half of the Struble Trail. As an atlaser, I have logged 40
hours of time in the past three years collecting data along the Struble
Trail. During this time I have found evidence of breeding for more than
seventy species of birds along the Struble Trail alone. This includes
the breeding of eleven species of warbler (including three of special
concern in the state, and one being the Cerulean Warbler, the Struble
Trail being one of a handful of locations breeding has been confirmed
in Chester County), four species of vireos, six species of flycatchers,
four species of woodpeckers, two species of oriole, Scarlet Tanager,
many sparrows, and more. If you would like any breeding records, or
further details, PLEASE contact me.
I have already seen habitat
destruction of one area, by the [owner]'s project, of one species of
warbler (Blue-winged Warbler) which is listed as a species of special
concern in this area and on the breeding bird atlas. There was previous
evidence of breeding, and that no longer exists in that particular
location due to the habitat destruction (this would be the land where
the thickets and shrubs, small trees, were leveled just south of the
parking lot on the east side of the trail. The impact the proposed
development will not only be of great detriment to the local community,
but especially to the environment and ecology of this beautiful tract
of riparian land here in our community!
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I would like my name on the petition for the extention of the Struble Trail. I have seen two 2 bike - car
accidents on 282 and as a bicyclist I would utilize this on a daily basis.
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Thank you for taking the initiative to represent the interests of so many residents that enjoy access to the marvelous natural treasures of the Struble Trail and Marsh Creek State Park. Our family of 5 are frequent
users of the Trail and Park. Our entire family enjoys the trail and park for running, biking, and hiking - often several times a week.
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We like to bike, walk and use the trail for fishing access. It's very sad that we have been unable to park at the trail off of Dorlan Mill Road. My boys miss it very much.