PHMC dumps Brandywine Battlefield Park

As anticipated, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission voted June 17 to follow the recommendation of a sustainability study and stop funding the operation of Brandywine Battlefield Park in Chadds Ford Township.

The recommendation calls for the state to enter into a management agreement with the township and the Brandywine Battlefield Associates to operate the park for a 10-year period. A fulltime PHMC maintenance position would remain in place.

No agreement has been reached yet and questions about the site’s operation remain, questions regarding the timetable for the state pulling out and where money will come from for continued park operations.

Park employees must be given 30 days notice before the state pulls out, but even that will likely not come before the state legislature comes up with a new budget.

“The plight is money,” said township Supervisors’ Chairman George Thorpe.

Thorpe is also a recent past president of the Brandywine Battlefield Park Associates.

Neither the township nor the associates have the money to operate the park as it has been operated. Both PHMC officials and Linda Kaat, the current president of the associates said it costs roughly $350,000 per year to run the park.

“The associates have no money,” Thorpe said. “In the last two years they either broke even or lost money.”

Thorpe said there had been some savings but the poor economy and a lack of visitors to the park have cut into the money the group did have. Last year’s rain that cancelled one half of the annual reenactment of the Battle of Brandywine also put a financial hurt on the group, he said.

According to Thorpe, the associates generate about $150,000 in business, but that is gross income, not profit. The group has sought out philanthropic organizations and has solicited contributions, but less than $3,000 has been raised so far.

He also said having the township increase taxes is not an option. And while the township has looked into partnering with Chester and Delaware counties, there is a timing problem.

“The predicament is that the state budget is on a fiscal year, while the counties operate on a calendar year,” Thorpe said. “There’s no money in their current budgets. We have to wait until next year.”

According to Linda Kaat, however, “The Brandywine Battlefield Park Associates are willing and able to take on the operations of the battlefield.”

She said it would cost about $1,000 per day to operate the park, and that might necessitate reduced hours or fewer days open.

She said her group has not yet been involved in any active talks with the township, but would start now that PHMC has voted.

Brandywine is one of six historic sites PHMC members voted to unload. Others are the Joseph Priestly House, Fort Pitt Museum, Flagship Niagara, Bushy Run Battlefield and Conrad Weiser.

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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