Township eager to break ground on Percheron Park

Construction will start later this summer.

The following is a press release from Moorestown Township and The Friends of Percheron Park: 

When you drive down Moorestown’s Main Street, you can’t help but notice the beautiful, historic buildings, the magnificent shade trees and the charming mix of homes, shops, restaurants, schools and churches. You also can’t help but notice the unsightly, empty lot at the corner of Main and High Streets, right in the center of all that charm. This summer, Moorestown will finally replace the eyesore on that corner with a beautiful public space called Percheron Park. As Mayor (Nicole Gillespie) and President of the Friends of Percheron Park (Kathy Logue), we decided to team up and write this press release to let everyone know what’s happening there and why we think it’s such a good thing for our town.

In December 2008, the township agreed to purchase the land at the corner of Main and High Streets to use for a park in the heart of our town. There was once a gas station on that land, so environmental remediation was required and expected to take a few years. In 2011, a group of Moorestown residents from the Garden Club presented a proposed design that built on Margo Foster’s idea to celebrate the town’s agricultural heritage and commemorate the first shipment of Percheron horses to the United States from France in 1839 by Moorestown native Edward Harris II. In 2012, the residents created a non-profit called the Friends of Percheron Park and formed a unique public/private partnership with the township of Moorestown to bring this vision to life. The Friends of Percheron Park began raising money for the construction and landscaping of the park and commissioned a life-sized, bronze statue of a Percheron horse that would be the focal point of the park and a symbol of the town’s history.

So why is that lot still empty? The previous owner of the lot was responsible for environmental remediation, which took until 2019 to complete, much longer than originally expected. In that time, construction costs inevitably increased and some of the businesses that had offered to donate materials and labor to the project are no longer around. When the township began preliminary engineering design work in 2020, they discovered the water and electric service for 2 E. Main Street (formerly Audrey Shinn Interiors) ran right through the lot and would need to be rerouted. Furthermore, there are monitoring wells on the property that must remain accessible in order to periodically retest the groundwater for residual contaminants. The Friends of Percheron Park have raised nearly $200,000 and modified the design of the park considerably to reduce costs, but it’s not enough to get the park built.

On Monday, May 24, the township council passed an ordinance to authorize additional funding for Percheron Park, up to $285,000. This will cover the costs of rerouting water and electric service, relocating wells to allow continued groundwater monitoring, lighting and hardscaping. The Friends of Percheron Park are funding the bronze statue (which is nearly complete), engravings on the seating walls to recognize donors and have coordinated the donation of benches, a historical marker and landscaping. They have committed to continue raising funds to help offset the cost to the township as well as future maintenance costs.

The township’s investment in the construction amounts about $13 per resident (at most) and is critical to finally converting the unattractive abandoned lot on Main Street into something beautiful and beneficial to our town. Construction will start later this summer, and by fall, we’ll have a new park in the heart of our town that will showcase a stunning piece of public art. It’s been a long time coming, but we are excited to see that space finally transformed and look forward to seeing it used for vendors at community events, art shows, musical performances and as a place to meet up with friends for a cup of coffee or just relax and enjoy our beautiful Main Street.

You can learn more about plans for the park at http://percheronpark.org/. We encourage anyone interested in helping to raise funds or in making a donation to go the website for online donations or send a check to PO Box 153, Moorestown, NJ 08057. You can contact The Friends of Percheron Park by email at percheronpark@gmail.com. Questions about the township’s role in the park can be addressed to council@moorestown.nj.us.