Washington Crossing's center battle

March 18, 2009 3:48:18 PM PDT
Supporters of the Washington Crossing Historical Park held a protest today in hopes of preserving history. A state committee was considering closing the visitor center.On the very shore where Washington crossed the Delaware for the battle that turned the tide in the Revolutionary War, a varied group of history lovers are gathering to gear up for another fight; a fight to save the visitor center at Washington Crossing Park.

"I think it would be a national disgrace if it closes. This park is a treasure to all of us and it should be; it is where we founded our freedoms," John Silvers of Upper Makefield Business Association said.

The state of Pennsylvania is considering closing the visitor center because of growing safety concerns. There are mold problems and gaping holes in the ceiling from a leaky roof, the steps on the outside of the building are crumbling, the paint is peeling, and even the flag is torn and tattered.

"If we lose this, we can't teach later generations what it is to be American, what it is to fight for," Ron Rinaldi who plays George Washington said.

"It is one of the most, if not the most, important historic sites in America," Guy Polhemus of the Crossing Legacy Foundation said.

Over $4-million in state money that was allocated for renovations several years ago, but it's never been spent. Continuing delays have kept the project on hold and now, that amount isn't enough to fix what's wrong here.

"It's going to cost twice as much, if not more, when they should have done it years ago in the very beginning," park visitor Barbara Cucinotta said.

Today, the State Historical and Museum Commission voted not to close the visitor center immediately. That'll be looked at again in June. Meantime, the commission wants to schedule a public meeting to discuss the issue, while waiting for the Department of General Services to update the cost of replacing the center.

Some suggest Washington Crossing become a national park like Valley Forge.

"The maintenance in the two parks is like night and day. So hopefully if that's what it takes, we would certainly support that," Bucks County Commissioner Charles Martin said.

Bucks County commissioners held their meeting at the park to focus attention on the issue and supporters are signing petitions urging quick action to save the center, which gets twice the visitors of any other site the state runs.

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