Thursday, May 15, 2008

Rally Planned to Protest Revolution Museum

By Nancy Petersen
Inquirer Staff Writer

A rally protesting plans for the American Revolution Center museum will be held tomorrow on the steps of the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown.

The 11:30 a.m. rally comes at a time when a key member of the center's board of scholars has stepped down, and the federal government has refused to approve construction of a bridge across the Schuylkill that would link the museum to key attractions in Valley Forge National Historical Park.

Rally organizer Joyce Cluley, a neighbor and opponent of the proposed development in Lower Providence Township, said she hoped the rally would trigger a wave of national opposition to the plans.

Those plans include the museum, up to 99 rooms of lodging, and a conference center on 78 acres that the center owns on the north side of the Schuylkill. The land, bordered by the park on three sides, is within the park's official boundaries.

"This will really harm the national park, and that means a lot to me personally," Cluley said. "They should not be able to divide the park in the name of history and then pave over the history."

Cluley said she had the support of the Friends of Valley Forge Park, the Sierra Club, and the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees.

Historians believe the park's entire north side, known as the Pawlings Farm, was the site of the commissary that Gen. George Washington established when the Continental Army camped at Valley Forge during the winter of 1777-78.

The north side was also the staging area for troops on their way to the Battle of Monmouth in New Jersey.

Thomas M. Daly, president and chief executive officer of the American Revolution Center, said it should not be a target of opposition.

"It is a sad irony that this so-called protest is being done against something that is a very positive thing that will give an in-depth history experience to the Valley Forge area rather than what people are getting now," he said.

"As I understand it, the label given to the rally is 'Save Valley Forge,' and we are eager to join with anybody who is interested in saving Valley Forge."

The museum was originally proposed for a site in the park near the current Welcome Center as part of a public-private partnership, but Daly's organization ended its partnership, saying it could not operate under the restrictions the Park Service imposed.

Park officials said the American Revolution Center's failure to comply with the partnership deal was one reason the U.S. Department of the Interior was reluctant to approve a proposed jointly constructed pedestrian bridge.

Daly said the bridge was not necessary for the success of the museum, although the center has offered to pay $5 million toward its cost. He said studies his group commissioned suggested that 725,000 visitors would visit the museum annually even without the bridge.

Montgomery County Board of Commissioners Chairman James R. Matthews (ed. note: a.k.a. James Rex III, King James the Turd, etc.) said recently that without a bridge, the county did not consider the museum project viable.

"I think visitors will go to the park to feel it with their feet," (ed note: wtf???) he said. "You won't get that 'wow' sensation and that same sense of place across the river."

The isolation of the museum site and the American Revolution Center's plans for it were reasons that University of Pennsylvania historian Richard M. Beeman, an original member of the center's board of scholars, withdrew from the board.

In a brief interview yesterday, Beeman, a former dean of Penn's College of Arts and Sciences and a board member of the National Constitution Center, said it would be difficult for the center to succeed if its museum was not in the park.

Beeman said he was also concerned that plans for the museum were focused too much on the war itself and not enough on the principals and ideas that led to the American Revolution.

No comments:

Obama Countdown