The nine-member federal advisory commission for the Great Falls National Park recommended an enhanced new plan to the National Park Service on Thursday afternoon that combines elements from the two actual alternatives the federal government unveiled for public comment earlier in the year.
“There’s many things in each alternative that we like,” said Leonard Zax of the Hamilton Partnership for Paterson who serves on the commission. “We want to take the best in alternative B and bring it to C.”
Majority of commissioners have said they were inclined towards supporting Alternative C which focuses on the industrial heritage of the Silk City; however, many said they also wanted elements of Alternative B which focuses on the park’s natural beauty.
The commission’s recommended plan dubbed “The Power of Landscape and People” took pieces from B and added to C. Commissioners also suggested new elements into their enhanced Alternative C.
Among the prominent features taken from Alternative B were: a network of rim trails to allow visitors to experience the water fall from different perspectives, rehabilitation of the S.U.M. administration building, preserve the Ivanhoe Wheelhouse, Gatehouse, and transformation of the ATP site into community recreation area.
“It’s the best of both plans. Why should we limit ourselves,” said mayor Jose “Joey” Torres who is also on the commission.
The enhanced plan also includes new additions like a visitor center at Overlook Park within the S.U.M. steam plant foundation, a pedestrian bridge over the Passaic River to link the ATP site to the walkway along the riverbank, educational boat rides and ranger tours near the falls, and a parking garage across the street from the Paterson Museum.
Some wondered what the park service will make of the parking garage in the plan. Freeholder director Theodore “TJ” Best said the parking garage will be an asset the city can leverage to raise funds for the park.
The commission also passed a resolution to ensure the plan includes the rehabilitation of the city’s historic raceways which the mayor said are probably of more significance than the water fall itself.
The enhanced plan contains 84 elements while the two alternatives combined had 105, according to Darren Boch, the superintendent of the Great Falls National Park.
The commission unanimously voted to recommend the enhanced plan. The federal government is currently holding public comment period for the park’s general management plan. The comment period ends on March 6th, 2016 at midnight.
Federal officials said the comments will be reviewed and sorted by topics and themes. The commission will have a chance to review the comments report in its April session. There’s a 30-day no action period after that following which a presentation plan will be put together before the final federal approval of the 20-year management plan.