Battlefield Park considered for use as visitors’ center

The Brandywine Battlefield Park could be redesigned and used as a visitors’ center for the entire Brandywine Battlefield area.

There’s nothing definitive yet, but that’s one of the ideas being considered by the Brandywine Battlefield Task Force as part of a preservation plan for the entire 35,000-acre battlefield that includes parts of 15 different municipalities from Kennett Square to Thornbury Township.

“We want to use the park in a more holistic way,” said Jeannine Speirs, the task force chairman and senior planner for the Chester County Planning Commission. “We want to work with the state to redesign the park and determine a more useful future.”

Speirs said the park has been underused, even when the state was operating the site. The state pulled out in 2009. Since then, the local friends group, The Brandywine Battlefield Park Associates, has been running the park.

As a visitors’ center for the entire battlefield — wherever there was troop movement leading up to the 1777 battle, as well as actual fighting — the 50-acre park could become a major player in the tourism industry for the region.

The task force has until spring to come up with a plan. The original deadline was the end of this year when a $61,000 grant was to expire, but the National Park Service gave the group an extension.

Speirs said the extension was welcomed because the more research the group did, the more information was uncovered. More time was needed to do a proper analysis.

As part of the process to develop the plan, the group held its third community meeting at the park on Nov. 28. While previous meetings focused on land conservation and public access, this one was to discuss ideas for historic resource evaluation, policy and protection, as well as historic interpretation, education and tourism.

Other ideas under consideration include establishing “gateway centers” in Kennett Square, the village of Chadds Ford and in West Chester to guide visitors to sites within the Battlefield.

The group also wants to do more research to document the impact of the Battle of Brandywine on the Revolutionary War as a whole, and to further analyze the role of black loyalists who fought for the British and how that influenced the founding of the nation of Sierra Leone.

More research also needs to be done on what impact the battle had on the Quaker philosophy on war and on their participation in government.

The Brandywine Battlefield Preservation Plan is being developed by a number of entities from Chester and Delaware County, including the Chadds Ford Historical Society and the Brandywine Conservancy. Work began in September 2011.

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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