Despite Public Concerns, Planning Commission Recommends Approval of Plans to Allow Incompatible Development at Valley Forge National Historical Park

 
PRESS RELEASE
  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date:   May 29, 2008
Contact:   Cinda Waldbuesser, Pennsylvania Program Manager, National Parks Conservation Association, P: 215.327.2529


Despite Public Concerns, Planning Commission Recommends Approval of Plans to Allow Incompatible Development at Valley Forge National Historical Park

Philadelphia, PA--Last night, despite overwhelming public opposition, including specific objections voiced by the National Park Service about the adverse impacts the project would have on the park, the Lower Providence Township Planning Commission recommended that the Board of Supervisors approve the American Revolution Center's (ARC) plans to build a museum complex on land within the park's congressionally designated boundary. The National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) says approval of this ill-advised development proposal is threatening to the historic landscape at Valley Forge National Historic Park.

"The location, scope, and scale of this commercial development proposal will have detrimental effects on the historic character of Valley Forge," said Cinda Waldbuesser, NPCA's Pennsylvania program manager. 

In public comments last night, NPCA said the organization has supported creation of a museum to tell the story of the American Revolution, and would fully support a return to a plan to build a museum near the park welcome center in cooperation with the National Park Service, or a suitable location elsewhere. In addition to a museum, the proposal would allow the landowner to build a conference center with lodging on the historic Pawling Farm, part of the Continental Army encampment during 1777-78, and where they marched out of Valley Forge to victory at Monmouth. 

NPCA says this threatening development proposal will:

· Destroy lands with historic significance.  Based on his near-decade of reviewing original encampment documents, historian Dr. Wayne Bodle of Indiana University of Pennsylvania has stated the land now owned by the ARC and planned for intensive development in fact is "just as 'hallowed' as any other lands" in the park.
· Destroy invaluable open space. The north side of the park provides open space for people and the best wildlife habitat in the entire park, in turn attracting visitors.  ARC's plans include disturbing approximately 70 percent of the site, leaving only a small amount of land as what most would consider as open space. 
· Add noise, light, traffic, and storm water runoff, and the visual intrusion of the parking lots, buildings, and other aspects of this museum complex.

In addition, NPCA says building the museum in a location so far removed from the current center of park visitation will create two competing centers of gravity, creating a confusing visitor experience. By locating the museum in a remote location, removed from the current center of park visitation, the museum, a private organization, will be in charge of telling the story of the encampment at Valley Forge to at least a portion of the visitors to the national park. 

"The amount of interest and emotion this issue has generated illustrates how many Americans, both locally and nationwide, care deeply about Valley Forge," said Waldbuesser. "This national icon must be preserved and protected for our children and grandchildren to enjoy."

Last night, the Planning Commission did stipulate that before final permits could be given for the first phase of the project, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission must review the archeological study. The Board of Supervisors is expected to make a final decision on the development proposal as early as June 23.  To review preliminary plans, visit www.lowerprovidence.org.

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