Battlefield park a possible hub for national landmark

The Brandywine Battlefield Park
in Chadds Ford Township could become a hub for the entire Brandywine
Battlefield Landmark.

The park was not the primary
area of discussion during a meeting of the Brandywine Battlefield Task Force,
but Barbara Franco, executive director of the Pennsylvania Historic and Museum
Commission, made the comment in an interview after the meeting.

PHMC stopped funding the daily
operation of the park in 2009. No extra funding is forthcoming from the state,
nor will the state resume operation, but PHMC will continue paying for the
maintenance and utilities, Franco said.

PHMC used to operate 23 sites.
It’s now operating 13.

While things will not go back
to the way they were, Franco said the last two years have led to a change in
thinking about what could be done.

“This might become the visitors’ center for this landmark.
It’s the landmark, not just the park the state owns and mows the grass for,”
she said. “How could it be the visitors’ center for this whole resource? It’s a
matter of thinking bigger, rather than smaller. There are opportunities gong
forward.”

Franco also said there is the
possibility of the state selling the property, but there are no buyers at this
time. Even if there were, they would have to agree to maintain the site as a
park, she said. Some similar sites have been turned over to nonprofit
organizations or municipalities.

“When we do that, we don’t just
sell it. It is with protection and if it’s ever not used for that purpose, it
reverts back to the state,” Franco said.

It would not be a fee simple
sale and there would have to be deed restrictions at the very least, she said.

There were three primary
presentations during the meeting. Jeannine Speirs, of the Chester County
Planning Commission is the Task Force chairman. She discussed the history and
future of the Task Force and David Shields, from the Brandywine Conservancy,
talked about the number of properties within the landmark that are now under
easement.

A more animated presentation,
given by Sean Moir of the Chester County Geographic Information Systems, was a
display of the animated map that shows troop movements of both British and
Colonial forces during the Battle of Brandywine on Sept. 11, 1777.

The map shows the movement of
the various divisions—designated by the names of the various commanders—along
with their locations at specific times during the day from 5 a.m. until the
battle ended after 8 p.m.

Franco said the presentation
showed the wave of the future, calling the technology a resource for the next
generation, something people could access on their cell phones.

Moir will give a full-length
presentation of the map at the Exton Library on Fathers’ Day, June 19, at 2
p.m.

Shields said the conservancy
has preserved—through easement and outright purchase— 2,700 acres of the 6,400
acres of the entire landmark area.

He spoke about the focus the
conservancy had on preserving the Meetinghouse Road corridor in Birmingham
Township. The cost of getting easements on four properties and buying one
property was $16.4 million.

According to Speirs, the Task
Force is looking to grow the public-private partnership and to raise public awareness
of the landmark and the significance of the battle.

The Task Force is currently
made up of Chester and Delaware counties, the Chards Ford Historical Society,
the Brandywine Conservancy, Friends of the Brandywine Battlefield and PHMC.

Speirs wants to get the Pennsylvania
Department of Transportation back into the group, as well as the national Park
Service, Valley Forge and municipalities.

There are 15 municipalities
within the landmark.

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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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