Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Living in a state park

Ridley Creek State Park is only 16 miles from Center City Philadelphia but is an oasis of tranquility and beauty. Get on your bike and take a trip to the park and enjoy the 5 mile mulit-use trail in the park. Get a peek at one of the 24 houses that are rented out on a lottery system. Folks wait 20 or more years to get a chance to rent one of the historic homes, Read about this park at http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/stateparks/findapark/ridleycreek/index.htm and read the article below for more information on this unusual way to live in nature.

It's a wild life for envied tenants of park dwellings

March 27, 2011|By Mari A. Schaefer, Inquirer Staff Writer

Never mind the drafty windows, or the sagging floorboards, or the lilliputian closets, or the frozen pipes, or the bugs that creep in, or the occasional coyote on the porch.

Scattered through the woods and across the meadows of Ridley Creek State Park are 24 of the most coveted rental homes in Delaware County, with a list of 500 applicants vying to time-travel back a couple of centuries.

The wait can be interminable. The hardy band of tenants who occupy the historic abodes tend to stay put, viewing life in the wilds not as an inconvenience but as a gift.

Built in 1771, hers is hardly the oldest of the dwellings that the state has rented out since it bought the land in the late 1960s and fashioned a 2,606-acre park.

Some are remnants of an early-18th-century village that sprang up around a gristmill and a sawmill. They include what were once the town library, the mill office, several workers' homes, and farmhouses - all anointed in 1976 by the National Register of Historic Places.

Tenants pay $500 to $2,000 a month, but one month a year is rent-free. In return for the break, they take on the labor and cost of minor maintenance and repairs, such as fixing broken windowpanes and torn screens. Projects the magnitude of bathroom renovations or new roofs require park approval, and they earn rent credits for those who do the work themselves. Improvements must be done out of necessity, however, not in surrender to modernity.

Warren Graham, a 60-year-old beekeeper, and Cecile Mann, 59, are among the rare newcomers. They moved into their two-story stone home in early 2010, just in time for record snows.

In a rookie mistake, they parked their car near the house, rather than the end of their 100-yard-long driveway. "We couldn't get out for five days," Mann said.

The house had been empty for a few years while a small bridge to the property was repaired. Animals made their way inside and left their scent. So the couple's first year has been spent scrubbing the walls and cleaning.

"The house was quite neglected, but we have begun to resurrect it," said Graham, whose never-ending to-do list includes a refurbished kitchen and floor and a garden.

"You wonder if you're crazy," he said. "But then, on a spring day, it's" - he paused - "wonderful."

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