Interior Secretary Salazar Urged to Protect Valley Forge National Historical Park

Interior Secretary Salazar is being urged to step into the fray over development of private land bordered on three sides by Valley Forge National Historical Site. NPS photo of General Washington's headquarters at Valley Forge.

The Coalition of National Park Service Retirees is urging Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to intervene over development at Valley Forge National Historical Park. At issue is whether the American Revolution Center can turn private land that has historical ties to the Revolutionary War into a sprawling museum complex.

The retirees and the National Parks Conservation Association long have lobbied against the development, saying it's inappropriate for the setting. Also on record opposing the development are officials for the historical park, although former National Park Service Director Mary Bomar never publicly took a stance. The 78 acres involved are bordered on three sides by the park.

While NPCA back in December filed a lawsuit challenging the local zoning ordinance under which the project was approved, a federal judge said her court was not the proper venue. As a result, earlier this month the NPCA turned to the Montgomery County (Pennsylvania) Court of Common Pleas for relief, but also appealed the federal judge's decision.

Now the retirees coalition is urging Secretary Salazar to intervene.

“We are pleased to hear that the National Parks Conservation Association and local residents are continuing the legal fight against the inappropriate development proposal on private land in Valley Forge National Historical Park—land critical to protection of site of the Continental Army’s winter encampment of 1777-1778," says Bill Wade, chairman of the coalition's executive council. "We are deeply disappointed that the Department of the Interior has not joined the legal action, and urge Secretary Ken Salazar to act now to prevent the major adverse impacts this development project will cause to this national treasure.

“The land on which the American Revolution Center plans to build is vital to the park’s mission to tell the story of General Washington and the Continental Army’s encampment at Valley Forge. The development will harm the surrounding federally-owned parkland. It will impair park views, add noise, harm important wetlands and the water quality of the Schuylkill River; and will confuse visitors.

“The Department of the Interior has the responsibility to protect Valley Forge National Historical Park. Congress made that responsibility clear in the 1916 Organic Act, directing the Secretary of the Interior to prevent the impairment of units of the National Park System. The Secretary has an absolute duty, which is not to be compromised, to fulfill the mandate of the 1916 Organic Act to take whatever action and seek whatever relief is needed to safeguard the units of the National Park System.

“The National Park Service expressed its concerns to ARC and the township with jurisdiction over the property, but ARC and the township have yet to address any of the National Park Service’s concerns, and are moving ahead with the inappropriate project. Clearly, additional action by DOI is necessary, and we urge them to join the legal challenge to ensure Valley Forge’s treasured landscape and unique historic resources are protected unimpaired for future generations.”

Comments

No, Kurt. The land involved is not "bordered on 3 sides by the park."

The land IS ENTIRELY INSIDE THE PARK. It is part of the park. That is the main thing about this land.

It is just not owned by the park. But when Congress enacts a park boundary, it does not require that the NPS acquire all the land, assuming that the private land uses are not changing and not doing damage to the park. But when the new uses do threaten the reasons the park was created. the NPS is supposed to do something about it.

This project was developed without the cooperation or approval by the National Park Service, making it different from most other comparable developments on private lands inside other parks. But the NPS has done nothing about it.

If the development were actually outside the park, it would be a whole different thing. But this development would be INSIDE the park. If Secretary Salazar, the CNPSR, the NPCA or anybody else wants to protect the Integrity of the National Parks, protecting the land inside a park boundary is the very least they can do, and an essential place to start.

If the proposed development is a museum why is that bad? Is it just becasue it is done by a private owner or because they fail to get approval from NPS?

In a nutshell, the objections revolve around where the complex is to be built -- on land with historic significance to the Continental Army. Plus, some years ago there was agreement between the NPS and the predecessors of ARC to locate a museum in another section of the park, one already developed, closer to a visitor center.

Thanks for the clarification.