Philadelphia, PA – Despite months of controversy over a proposed ordinance to allow inappropriate commercial development at Valley Forge National Historical Park, the Lower Providence Board of Supervisors last night approved the proposal. The land in question is within the park's congressionally designated boundary, but is privately owned.
"The Board of Supervisors did not listen to their constituents, nor to the concerns of other Americans who treasure this national icon—Valley Forge National Historical Park," said Cinda Waldbuesser, NPCA's Pennsylvania program manager. "This situation demonstrates the urgent need for Congress to provide the funding necessary for national parks to protect all the lands within their designated boundaries."
The National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) last night presented a map to the Board of Supervisors that illustrates the extensive and incompatible development that will be allowed on historic land at Valley Forge. While a proposed museum could have been built on the property under the township's existing rules, the changes approved last night would allow the landowner to build additional development, including a hotel and conference center.
"With rapid development virtually surrounding Valley Forge National Historical Park, its meadows and fields provide precious open space," said Joyce Cluley, a resident of Lower Providence. "With many hotels and conference centers right down the street, my neighbors and I question the need to build on this very historic landscape.
Valley Forge provides priceless open space in an area that has rapidly suburbanized. As written, the ordinance would allow structures including pedestrian walkways, courtyards, and plazas to count as open space. The development could occupy more than 509,000 square feet—space equivalent to more than three Wal-Mart stores—disturbing historic park land.
"The Friends of Valley Forge would love to see the American Revolution Center and the park try again to work out their differences, so a museum could be built in the originally proposed location within the park," said Don Naimoli, Friends of Valley Forge board member. "Building a museum in that location would benefit the ARC, the park, local residents and park visitors."
Part of the historic Pawling Farm, the approved development would be built on property where units of the Continental Army were encamped at the end of the bitter winter of 1777-1778, and where General George Washington established the army's commissary operation to bring order and security to distribution of precious camp supplies, ending the starvation of the troops.
The National Park Service and American Revolution Center worked together for years on plans to build and operate an American Revolution museum within the park, on already disturbed land adjacent to the current Welcome Center where underutilized existing parking areas could be used.