Hunkering down for a long fight at Valley Forge
In 1777 American rebels, broken, demoralized, undisciplined and on the edge of desertion, put up camp on some rolling hills about 10 miles from Philadelphia. As explained by USHistory.org, they emerged several months later “anxious to fight the British.”
Well, it’s 230 years later and the battle lines are being drawn once again, but this time it’s over use of part of the park land for a museum dedicated to the American Revolution.
WHYY’s Alex Schmidt traveled out to Valley Forge to talk to both sides in this land use controversy. Her piece is running on 91FM today and can be heard at this link (.mp3).
On one side is the the American Revolution Center, which recently purchased 78 acres at northern edge of the 3500-acre park. There plan is to build a museum and conference center, including, according to its website:
- 30,000 square feet of exhibit space to inform and inspire people about the surprising, culturally rich and ethnically diverse period of the American Revolution
- Auditorium for school and scholarly presentations
- Outdoor terrace and programming spaces
- Trails and walkways through the 78-acre site
On the other side, residents of Montgomery County and officials from the National Park Service are worried about what the paving and development of this piece of land will mean for the character of the overall site. The park superintendent, Mike Caldwell, tells Alex that one of his major worries is that the American Revolution itself will be cheapened by the “branding” that the privately-owned ARC is seeking to put on this seminal event in American history.
Other members of the community worry about the precedent set by allowing one of the last remaining areas of open space in the country to be developed.
In searching for more information about this controversy, I came across the website for the ARC, the official website of Valley Forge Park, and a number of news stories about it, including this one that just went up at Time.com a couple of hours ago and this one from the New York Times.
What I haven’t been able to find, however, are any blogs or message boards that have any discussions among the supporters and opponents of the project. Even the Philly.com story about the latest developments doesn’t have its usual “comment on this story” option.
So, here it is.
You can use the comments section of this post to get the discussion going. I’d love to hear from folks on both sides, especially people who have been active on one side or the other and people who live near the proposed area. But even if you’ve just been following the story closely and have an interest in open space, the American Revolution, Valley Forge or federal funding for national park preservation, I’d love to hear from you.
I’ll be watching the comment thread pretty closely so let’s try to keep the discussion civil.