Patersonians Want National Park Plans to Stir the Imagination
Thursday, March 7, 2013 • 9:17pm
PATERSON, NJ – Disappointed by federal officials’ initial suggestions for the new national park at the Great Falls, Patersonians are calling for plans that are bolder and more ambitious.
During a meeting on Thursday of the Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park Advisory Commission, city officials, activists and community leaders asserted that the long-term plans for the new park should not be constrained by concerns over the federal government’s current fiscal crisis. The General Management Plan being developed will provide the blueprint for the park’s development over the next 20 years and community leaders said it should aim high.
“Please keep this as big as possible,’’ said Martin Feitlowitz, chairman of Paterson Historic Preservation Commission, who then quoted a prominent architect who helped design the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893. “Make no small plans for they do little to stir the imagination of men.’’
Bob Guarasci, director of the North Jersey Community Development Corporation on Spruce Street and a member of the advisory commission, said the plans for the park should be “as visionary and as aspirational as possible.’’
Federal officials have prepared four alternative proposals for the Great Falls park, including one that would focus on the natural aesthetics of the waterfall, another that would emphasize the industrial legacy of the site and a third that would stress the Great Falls’ connections with other historic sites in the area, like the Botto House in Haledon and Lambert Castle.
“We would have the Falls, but we wouldn’t be able to tell the larger industrial story,’’ said commission member Jim Pepper about the alternative that would empgasize the waterfall itself.
Mayor Jeffery Jones said the limitations of the federal government’s ideas prompted the advisory commission to come up with suggestions that were “larger, grander, bolder.’’
Under three of the National Park Service’s proposals, the raceway system that was used for decades to funnel water from the falls to create power for local industries would remain dry. That did not sit well with advisory commission members and others who attended Thursday’s meeting and said the park should include a raceway system flowing with water to illustrate the waterfall’s role in the city’s ground-breaking industrial past.
“That must be essential to this park,’’ said Frank Blesso, a Paterson resident. “Without a raceway, there isn’t a reason for this park.’’
In an effort to push the park service towards a more ambitious blueprint, a subcommittee of the advisory commission crafted its own alternative proposals. One would combine the main features of the park service’s ideas, a second would expand the boundaries of the park to include Hinchliffe Stadium and a third would include the Paterson Trolley Barn property and adjacent parking lot to improve visitor’s access to the park.
Including Hinchliffe would allow the national park to cover much broader themes, including the role of the Negro baseball leagues in America’s history, said commission member Leonard Zax, the head of Paterson’s Hamilton Partnership.
Darren Boch, the superintendent of the park, said the federal government would hold meetings this spring to get the public’s input on the various alternatives for the development plan. Boch also said the park serve would strive to blend its ideas with those proposed by the advisory commission.
Guarasci and commission member Susan Cole, the president of Montclair State University, both said the blueprint for the park should not be constricted by limitations of federal funding for the park. Guarasci said an ambitious plan would attract private investment. “It’s not inconceivable that $100 million could be raised,’’ he said.
Cole said she thought the plan should be larger than what the park service can handle on its own. Former mayor Jose “Joey” Torres attended the meeting and agreed with the call for more ambitious plans.
“Think big,’’ he said. “You shoot for the stars and settle for the moon.’’