The National Park Service on Wednesday afternoon released the long-awaited draft general management plan for the Great Falls National Park for public review and comment.
The plan presents three alternatives for the park. The first alternative is to keep the status quo, the second focuses greatly on the park’s natural landscape, and the third seeks to immerse visitors in the city’s industrial history.
The first option called Alternative A costs $4.7 million, the second $32 million, and the third $48 million. After the implementation there’s annual operating costs which for the first option is $562,000, $1.8 million, and $2.25 million for each of the alternatives respectively.
Alternative A would continue the present running of the park with little change.
“The primary visitor experience would be through self-guided tours, independent park exploration and passive recreation. Mary Ellen Kramer Park, Overlook Park—with views of the Great Falls and the Passaic River—and the nearby Welcome Center and the Paterson Museum would continue to be the primary destinations in the park,” reads the plan about the first option.
Alternative B focuses on the natural landscape of the park. “A multisensory experience would highlight connections among the natural world, the power of the falls and the Passaic River, and Paterson’s innovative role in the evolution of American industry and manufacturing,” reads the plan about the second option. “Natural and cultural landscapes would offer enhanced opportunities for scenic views, recreation, learning through interpretive and educational programs, and community building through special events.”
The second option also places a great deal of focus on recreation. Under this plan, the former Allied Textile Printing (ATP) site will be rehabilitated, and turned into a “community recreation area and provide greater access to the Passaic River for activities such as fishing.”
The second option also includes the rehabilitation of the steam plant foundation as a new visitors center, said Darren Boch, superintendent of the park. He said the Colt Gun mill would also be preserved under the second option.
Boch said in the third option the Colt Gun Mill will be rehabilitated possibly for an adaptive re-use.
Alternative C is about immersing visitors in the city’s industrial heritage. “The learning experience would highlight the national significance of Paterson’s history beginning with the city’s founding as part of Alexander Hamilton’s vision for American economic independence and innovation, and continuing through today,” reads the plan.
The raceways which powered the mills would play a prominent role in the third option. “Visitors would explore the raceway system via a new landscaped raceway walk, beginning at the upper raceway gatehouse intake on the Passaic River and continuing to the lower raceway tailrace discharge into the river,” reads the plan.
Boch said in both B and C the raceway will have water running through it. In B the structure is preserved; in C the raceway gatehouse is restored, he said. In B a raceway trial is developed, according to the plan.
“It’s really a matter of emphasis,” he said of the alternatives. All three options call for the stabilization of Hinchliffe Stadium.
The public review and comment period for the 222-page plan will last for 60 days after which the alternative that is selected will immediately move towards implementation, according to the plan.
The plan was prepared over a four-year period to guide the management of the national park for over the next 20 years.
“While it took longer than expected to be released, I look forward to a robust public comment period and swift finalization of the plan to ensure our park becomes a destination point,” said Rep. Bill Pascrell, who introduced the Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park Act in 2006. “I will also be working with stakeholders in all levels of government and our partners in the parks system to ensure the historic and aesthetic beauty of Paterson and the Great Falls are preserved in a way that will attract visitors, small businesses, families, and investors to our great city.”
Pascrell said the Great Falls can be an engine for economic growth in the city and beyond. The public comment period is open until March 6th, 2016.
“We’re asking people to weigh in on the plan,” said Boch. He said people will be able to select one or the other or suggest new elements or mix and match from the plans.
The National Park Service will host an open house on Saturday, January 23rd, 2016 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the New Jersey Community Development Corporation (NJCDC) located at 32 Spruce Street to provide information about the plan and collect comments.