Chadds Ford may need to lead in saving battlefield park

Chadds Ford Township dos not have the money to operate the Brandywine Battlefield Park, but it may need to take the lead in saving the park operations.

Supervisors’ Vice Chairman Deborah F. Love made the comment after a Monday night meeting on the park’s future held at the Brandywine River Museum.

During that meeting – attended by an estimated 200 people, some in 18th century garb – 35 people told state Sen. Dominic Pileggi, state Rep. Stephen Barrar and members of the Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission to keep the park open.

Earlier this year, the commission announced it would vote in June on whether to continue funding the site. A PHMC sustainability study recommended the commission turn the park over to the Township.

Love, who spoke at the meeting Monday, said Tuesday that township supervisors have met with members of the commission and with Pileggi and Barrar.

“We’ve agreed to partner with the commission to keep [the park] alive. We’ve met with the senator and had a conversation with Representative Barrar to say that we the township would take the leadership to maintain the jewel that we have in our community,” Love said. “Obviously we’d be looking for partners to do this.”

Those partners being considered include both Chester and Delaware counties and private parties, she said.

Entailed in taking the lead would be some level of funding and organizing some business plan to maintain the park’s operation.

Love said, however, the township can’t afford to run the park on its own.

“We absolutely do not [have the money,]” Love said. “We’re looking at [whether] it’s a contribution from a grant, [or] some set of open space money. We have to look at that, but we know to maintain is going to be a cost and we certainly can’t take the whole bite.”

She said the township has been talking with Pileggis and Barrar to see what funding, through partners, might be available.

Other organizations wanting to keep the park operating – organizations whose representatives spoke during the meeting – include the Brandywine Conservancy, Chadds Ford Historical Association and the Chadds Ford Civic Association.

Other speakers included re-enactors, past and current members of the Battlefield Park Associates and private citizens. Voices not allowed to speak at the meeting were those of park employees.

Employees received a memo telling them that any statement they wanted to make had to be in writing and submitted through their supervisors, said one employee who spoke under the guarantee of anonymity.

The source said that employees believe that it’s a foregone conclusion that the township will take over the park and that the decision has already been made despite what anyone from the state is saying now.

All of the employees believe they will be laid off, that there will be no transfers, the employee said.

Pileggi called the meeting. It was designed to get a feel for what people thought and no decisions were made. PHMC members will vote in June on the matter.

“My goal, simply stated,” Pileggi said, “is to keep that site open, keep the park open and to improve the services and the programming at the park from what’s there now. … I personally think the state has a responsibility and a duty to continue to provide support for the site and, in that regard, I disagree with the commission’s recommendation.”

Pileggi, citing budget figures, said the operating cost for the park was $385,000 per year, with the state providing $235,000. The remaining $150,000 came from the associates group.

Park employees dispute those figures. The employee said the associates provide much less, and that the figures cited are old.

Brandywine Battlefield Park is one of several historic sites in the state that could be squeezed out in a state budget crunch. The site honors the Sept. 11, 1777 battle between British and American forces and was the largest land battle of the War for Independence.

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About Rich Schwartzman

Rich Schwartzman has been reporting on events in the greater Chadds Ford area since September 2001 when he became the founding editor of The Chadds Ford Post. In April 2009 he became managing editor of ChaddsFordLive. He is also an award-winning photographer.

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One Response to “Chadds Ford may need to lead in saving battlefield park”

  1. The Fox says:

    Donations, as little as a dollar, can save the Battlefield. Click to http://www.savebrandywinebattlefield.com and make a small donation. Pass it on….

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