Historic group worried by budget cuts in Pa., N.J. Both are examples, it said, of how historic sites can bear the brunt of cost-cutting.

Posted: May 21, 2010

A national historic preservation group has singled out Pennsylvania's and New Jersey's state-owned historic sites in its annual list of endangered places, as "prime examples" of how historic properties often end up bearing the brunt of cost-cutting measures in tough economic times.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation included America's state parks and state-owned historic sites on its 11 Most Endangered Places list.

Last year's budget shortfall forced Pennsylvania to close or reduce hours at 13 historic sites - including four in the southeast - and concerns are mounting about what might happen in the likely event additional cuts are enacted this year.

"Few states have seen as many cuts to heritage-related programs as Pennsylvania, one of six states identified by the National Trust as prime examples of the nationwide problem," the Washington-based group said in a news release. "As a national steward of America's heritage, Pennsylvania has - until recently - been a model for its commitment to and care of historic places. Now, budget-cutting measures have impacted places of historic importance all across Pennsylvania."

Among the affected sites are Brandywine Battlefield Park, in Delaware County, which opens for only special events, and Washington Crossing Historic Park in Bucks County, which remains open thanks to the help of a friends group.

Also listed are Montgomery County's Graeme Park, which has limited hours, and Hope Lodge, which is only open for special events.

The group also cited the elimination of funding for the commonwealth's heritage areas program, a 53 percent reduction in grant funding for historical organizations and museums and the continued reduction in funding for the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC), the agency in charge of state-owned historic site.

In New Jersey, the group said, state parks and state-owned historic sites have been "on life support for years."

Gov. Christie is reducing the budget of the state agency responsible for parks and historic sites.

The budget also eliminates all funding for the Battleship New Jersey, the Old Barracks Museum in Trenton, Morven Museum in Princeton, and the Save Ellis Island organization. (The sites will have to apply for state grants from a smaller pool of money.)

Kirk Wilson, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, bristled at the notion that state sites were facing imminent destruction or damage. While the budget picture for 2010-11 was unclear, he said basic maintenance continued at the 13 sites and the visitor center was being fully restored at Washington Crossing.

He also said the endangered list doesn't take into account the "herculean" efforts of state historic site staff and citizen volunteers to keep the sites open during the difficult times.

Contact staff writer Amy Worden at 717-783-2584 or aworden@phillynews.com.

|
|
|
|
|