Sunday, July 4, 2010

Independence From State Budget Woes

Washington Crossing Historic Park reopened its visitor center on July 1, thanks to the nonprofit group Friends of Washington Crossing Park.

The friends group formed last winter after the Pennsylvania Legislature slashed the park's funding, threatening the annual Delaware River crossing recreation. The group worked in partnership with the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission, which officially oversees the park, and now plans to open the park for tours on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays starting on July 9.

But the debate over the state's poor stewardship of the park is far from over.

The park includes a large section of land administered as Bowman's Hill Wildflower Preserve. Back in May, the state House approved a bill to turn over the deed for those 130+ acres to the nonprofit Bowman's Hill Wildflower Preserve Association, which has been involved in managing the preserve since 1934.

The nonprofit association apparently sought the deed transfer five years ago, and believes the transfer will help its efforts to raise private donations. You can read executive director Miles Arnott's comments about the plan here. The Inquirer covered the debate over the deed transfer here.

Once again, the question arises: who are the better stewards of our historic sites, government agencies or independent nonprofits? Should we preserve our history primarily with taxpayer dollars or philanthropic dollars?

Of course, isn't this a moot point if the taxpayer dollars have disappeared? Thank goodness someone is trying to preserve these sites.

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