Should Hinchliffe Stadium Be Added to the Great Falls National Park?
Tuesday, February 19, 2013 • 7:40am
PATERSON, NJ – A federal advisory commission has begun preliminary discussions on whether the boundaries of the Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park should be expanded to include Hinchliffe Stadium.
Only Congress can authorize an expansion of the park, but that’s only likely to happen if the idea has support from the Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park Federal Advisory Commission, officials said.
Commission members said they expect to tackle the Hinchliffe question at a special meeting on March 7 at the Paterson Museum when they are scheduled to discuss alternatives for the park’s General Management Plan. The commission’s chairman, former mayor Lawrence “Pat” Kramer, said “the prevailing thinking” among the commissioners seemed to embrace the Hinchliffe expansion as one of the options for the park’s management plan.
Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., a driving force behind the park’s creation, has been supportive of adding Hinchliffe to the national park. "As a native Patersonian, I understand Hinchliffe Stadium's significance in interpreting our city's rich history,’’ said Pascrell. “This is the very reason I fought to include a provision in the original legislation to create the park requiring a study of preservation and interpretation options.”
Pascrell added, “I always believed that Hinchliffe should be included within the boundaries of the National Park and will continue to look at opportunities, including legislation, to preserve and protect one of Silk City's many gems."
Mayor Jeffrey Jones, a member of the federal advisory commission, said the question of adding Hinchliffe to the park was a difficult one. “I’m not sure how I feel about it yet,’’ said Jones. On the one hand, the mayor said he supported any initiative that would generate funding for the rehabilitation of the crumbling stadium, one of only three ballparks from the old Negro Leagues that’s still standing. On the other hand, he said, some Patersonians are concerned about relinquishing control over what they see as potential recreational gem for the city.
The United States Department of the Interior, which includes the National Park Service, currently is weighing a proposal to designate Hinchliffe a national historic landmark. Meanwhile, an effort to add Hinchliffe to the city’s list of historic sites has stalled because of opposition from Board of Education members who say they fear historic designation would inflate the costs of renovations and possibly prevent the work from getting done.
School board president Christopher Irving said no one has approached the board about the possibility of adding Hinchliffe to the national park. “They can talk about expanding all they want, but they can’t expand onto property they don’t own,’’ said Irving. “I don’t think we intend to give up our rights to that space.’’
Darren Boch, superintendent of the Great Falls national park, said expanding the park’s boundaries to include the stadium would not necessarily mean the that federal government would acquire Hinchliffe or take control of its renovation and subsequent operation. There are instances in national parks around the country in which land within their boundaries remains owned and operated by other entities.
The park service, Boch said, has not taken a position on whether Hinchliffe should be added to the Great Falls park’s boundaries.