NEWTOWN SQUARE–The forests and meadows of (RCSP) span across more than 2,600 acres in Newtown Square.
The state-owned park, that is located 16 miles west of downtown Philadelphia, is steeped in rich history, provides educational and recreational opportunities, and continues to be a closely preserved open space in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Pamela Cloud has been a loyal visitor to the park for the past 15 years. She spent much of her free time walking the trails, and honing her photography skills, and now enjoys taking her son, Noah, for hikes there. She has also become involved in the grassroots group, Friends of Ridley Creek State Park, an independent, non-profit organization that helps "preserve, protect, restore and enhance the beauty and integrity of the park."
The Friends volunteer monthly to remove debris and maintain the park’s trails, and they also hold educational lectures, as well as fundraising events, throughout the year.
Cloud says The Friends consider Ridley Creek State Park as one of southeastern Pennsylvania’s finest treasures.
"Ask any one of the almost million visitors per year who visit the park, and they’ll swear they are the only ones who know about it. If you visit on a weekday, the park can seem desolate.
However, public use can be intense. On a nice weekend, as many as 1,000 people may use the multi-use trail, including joggers, casual walkers, dog walkers, parents having play dates with children, bicyclists, and bird watchers."
Cloud reiterates that the park offers many diverse activities and things to do for all types of people.
Picnicking – There are 14 picnic areas throughout the park that are equipped with restrooms and charcoal grills. Some have large playing fields, playgrounds and picnic pavilions, which can be reserved in advance for parties.
Running/Walking/Biking – The five-mile long, multi-use trail is most heavily used by runners, walkers and cyclists. A few dozen organized events are held along it annually, including The Friends’ Road and Trail fundraising run, walk or hike, to be held on Sunday, Oct. 2.
The is also held at the park. West Chester’s Brian Bugey participates in this series, and says RCSP is one of his favorite places to run.
"There are plenty of flat places to run, but also plenty of hills. Runners can run out in the open, or in the shade. Most importantly, it’s a quiet place, and very safe place to run," says Bugey. "The great thing about running there is the variety of terrains and slopes it offers."
Hiking – The 12 miles of trails, which can be quite challenging according to Cloud, wind through many different habitats in the central part of the park.
Laurie Koons Harper, of Media, spends her free time hiking there.
"What I love about it is walking the trails with someone special and being able to have deep, meaningful conversation while enjoying all Mother Nature has to offer," says Koons Harper.
Fishing – Ridley Creek is stocked with trout, and is especially popular for anglers in the spring. The creek is a catch and release, fly fishing area only, and runs from Sycamore Mills Dam to the mouth of Dismal Run. State Fish and Boat Commission laws apply.
Horseback Riding – Hidden Valley Farms operates a stable within the park that provides trail rides, horse boarding, riding lessons and pony rides.
Cross-Country Skiing, Snow-shoeing and Sledding – When it snows, cross-country skiers and show-shoe enthusiasts can use the multi-use and hiking trails, and sledders can enjoy the large hill by the park office, located at The Mansion.
The Mansion and Formal Gardens – The main entrance on Sandy Flash Drive brings you to the park office, which is the breathtaking Hunting Hill Mansion. It’s a popular attraction, and wedding and banquet site. The formal gardens at the park are a photographer’s dream, and feature the rose garden, the topiary garden and the fountain garden.
For more information on the history of The Mansion, the evolution of the park and formal gardens, and to hear more about Park Manager, Michael Kutzmonich, and his goals for the park. Visit Ridley Creek State Park’s official website for more information on activities, park rules, hours, directions, special events and more.