Saving the park must be done properly

It would be a sorry state of affairs for the Brandywine Battlefield Park in Chadds Ford Township to shut down and no longer provide an interpretive role in educating the public about the Sept. 11, 1777 Battle of Brandywine. For years the park has been a place where visitors could get a feel for the battle, both about it’s military significance as wells as it’s effect on the civilian population.

Indeed, it may have been the only place where people could get that education. Textbooks have been lacking in explaining the battle and more space is given to the winter at Valley Forge and Washington’s crossing of the Delaware than to the largest land battle of the American War for Independence.

The education at the park has come from a handful of Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission employees and members of a volunteer group, The Brandywine Battlefield Park Associates.

Now the state – which acquired the property for a park in the late 1940s – wants to stop funding the operation and turn it over to Chadds Ford Township for use as a municipal park and open space – and this, after condemning private property to establish the park, all the while knowing that the battle didn’t happen there. It seems the state just wanted a park along Route 1.

With money now tight and politicians playing games with the state budget, Brandywine and other historic sites in the state face possible closure, though we currently doubt the park in Chadds Ford will close. Perhaps, though, that is wishful thinking.

The park should stay open in its current role, as many people want and understand. And the township wants to take a lead in preserving the park even though Chadds Ford doesn’t have the $350,000 per year to operate the park.

As Supervisors’ Vice Chairman Deborah F. Love said, the township will take the lead but is looking for partners, partners with resources, to keep the park a functional site, more than merely open space. That partnership, she said, could involve both Chester and Delaware counties as well as other entities.
During a recent public hearing on the park, a rhetorical question was raised: Is the state the best entity to run Brandywine Battlefield Park?

While a rhetorical question, there does appear to be an answer, and that answer is no. Further, any level of government may be the wrong operator.

Private businesses should be involved. The park is a tourist attraction and, as such, the hospitality industry has a stake in the park’s fate. And herein lies what could be the strongest link in the partnership referred to by Ms. Love. Private industry, not just government and nonprofit organizations should be involved in maintaining a park.

As Ms. Love said, a solid business model must be developed to keep the park running, and that model, at least under the current economic climate, may require a public/private partnership. Including profit-making people in that partnership would go a long way to keeping the park viable. It may even be best for the park to be under private ownership completely.

Yet all of this may be moot. PHMC members are scheduled to vote on the park issue next month. Perhaps this is all a tempest in a teapot. We will all find out sometime in June.

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One Response to “Saving the park must be done properly”

  1. brandywinebard says:

    Thank you Richard Schwartzman for having the courage to answer the rhetorical question I put before the panel at the public hearing on May 18.

    Your answer, by the way, is 200% correct.

    For over 60 years the state has mis-represented and mis-interpreted the Gilpin House and until just recently refused to listen to the truth even when they were presented with 20 pieces of primary evidence proving beyond a shadow of a doubt where Lafayette actually stayed before the battle.

    Arthur “Casey” Cleveland,III may finally be vindicated, but I fear it may be too late.

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