Brandywine Picnic Park leads collection for Harvey victims

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By JP Phillips, Correspondent, The Times

People dropping off donations on a rainy Saturday at Brandywine Picnic Park to support the victims of Hurricane Harvey.

EAST BRADFORD — The owners of Brandywine Picnic Park and Hickory House Catering are no strangers to dealing with floods.

Gripping the banks of Brandywine Creek just outside of West Chester, the park floods at least once per year. A three-inch rainfall will flood the parking lot. Higher amounts invade buildings, damaging equipment. Catastrophic amounts can rip down tents and send picnic tables, paddle boats, and grills down river as far as the Brandywine River Museum on US-1.

That’s why Kate and Devin, two Capps granddaughters who work at the park, decided to do what they could to send relief down to the folks in Texas reeling from Hurricane Harvey. As Kate Phillips explained, it started with “a small little idea” in the form of a Facebook post on the park’s page:

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, do you feel like you could do more to help those who lost everything in the flooding? Brandywine Picnic Park will be holding a collection drive for items to send to Texas to help with the relief!”

A 2014 storm that dumped 5.5 inches. This is the parking lot and admission booth at Brandywine Picnic Park with around four feet of water. Times’ file photo.

They asked that any donations of water, new clothes, non-perishable food and toiletries be dropped off Saturday, September 2nd, at the park. The plan was to mail any donations or, if they got enough, pack up their 30-foot Hickory House Catering van and take a field trip to a Dallas non-profit collection center for families in need.

Phillips did not anticipate their Facebook post being shared over 1,100 times.

They were overwhelmed with the community response. Cars, vans, and trucks pulled into their parking lot. The catering van was full within the first hour.

Trucks dropped off six pallets of water. One generous individual ordered a pallet of horse feed and had it drop-shipped directly to the park. Scores of local residents brought new clothes, baby items, paper goods and cleaning supplies. Phillips estimates they will need two tractor trailers for the donations.

Kate Phillips in the game room pointing to Hurricane Irene flood line (three feet in a building that is around four feet off the ground)

The Capps family understands the planning needed for storms like Harvey, and the long expensive road to recovery. Serious flooding requires all their cooking equipment be moved inside. Boats and picnic tables must be secured. Trailers are brought to higher ground outside the park.

A small flood coats the park with mud that must be cleaned. Large floods send employees down-river to retrieve as much as they can. One time they hired a helicopter to find part of the “fun slide” that washed away.

Flooding during Hurricane Floyd in 1999 had water near the top of the arches on the Lenape Bridge. Here, two trailers from Brandywine Picnic Park are lodged under the bridge after the storm. Image courtesy Brandywine Picnic Park.

Hurricanes Floyd (1999) and Irene (2011) put the park completely underwater.  During Floyd, the park’s petting zoo had seven feet of water. The 33 animals climbed up the ramp to the second story of the building, with baby goats standing on the sheep to keep them out of the foot of water on that level. The storm also destroyed every tent.

Phillips says the flooding has gotten worse over time. While the park used to flood with four inches of rainfall, now three inches will do it. She attributes it to the land development. Increases in impervious surfaces limit what the ground will absorb. This is the same problem as what contributed to the flooding in Houston.

“The runoff floods us before the river floods,” Phillips laments.

So now the task is figuring out how to get the collected supplies to Texas. Phillips is looking for one or two tractor trailers and monetary donations for the truck rentals, fuel, tolls, and drivers. If you’d like to donate or if you have connections with a trucking company that can help, please contact the park at the link below. Update: a truck driver has been found and the items are on their way to Texas.

In the meantime, Phillips is watching Hurricane Irma hourly as it heads towards Miami. If the storm turns north and pummels the Carolinas or New Jersey, the park could be in trouble.

The park has not flooded this year. Yet.

Link to contact Brandywine Picnic Park:

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