National Park Service Criticized over Valley Forge

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The National Park Service has become so scared of what counterproductive thing Congress might do to it next that it has become downright timid. That syndrome might rob Pennsylvania of the museum it needs to complete the narrative of our nation's history. Since 1999, Valley Forge National Historical Park had been working in a public-private partnership to develop the nation's first education center devoted to the American Revolution. Because of unrealistic demands from Congress, that partnership is in jeopardy.

The 103,000-square-foot American Revolution Center, designed by renowned architect Robert A.M. Stern, would house more than 100,000 privately owned objects and manuscripts, including George Washington's tent and Abigail Adams' apron. With exhibits, theaters and programming, it would tell not just the story of Valley Forge, but the birth of the nation.

The $100 million center would mesh with Independence Hall, the Constitution Center, and nearby battlefields to make this part of Pennsylvania a mecca for the millions of people who have an unquenchable curiosity about the story of how the United States came to be.

Historians, artists, generals, businesspeople, politicians (on both sides of the aisle) loved the idea. Fund-raising was proceeding until last summer, when a congressional inquiry into 23 partnership projects nationwide prevented the center from accepting a $10 million donation from the Oneida Indian Nation. The insulted tribe returned to New York. Relations between the center and Park Service have been shaky ever since.

Despite numerous earlier studies, the Park Service requested further financial reassurances and now insists on downsizing the building, which would make it too small to keep the project feasible.

Congress and the Park Service are breaching faith with the nonprofit. It's a lousy way to repay a group that used its own fund-raising campaign to secure a $1 million private grant to refurbish the park's once-dingy visitor's center.

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Patrick Murray - 11/16/2005

As one who takes students and their parents to Valley Forge National Park it is a shame to witness what the last fifteen years has done. The National Park Service personnel are fabulous, but they live in distressed housing that bespeaks a government slum. Tax cuts have left the federal government with insufficient funds. Valley Forge is just one example.