So much for slashing unnecessary spending in the New Jersey budget. The Capitol Joint Management Commission (JMC) recently approved expending an as yet undetermined amount of money (“more than $400,000,” according to the beleaguered designers and historic preservation consultants hauled before them) to fill in the Petty’s Run archaeological site on the New Jersey Statehouse grounds in Trenton. As historians and archaeologists from all over the U.S. and Great Britain are howling about the wasted opportunities for scholarship and study, Trenton business and tourism leaders are mourning the effects of another blow to the capital city’s constantly thwarted efforts to build a tourism economy.
In spite of the hundreds of thousands of dollars – constitutionally dedicated and previously appropriated – already spent on exploration, study and design for an interpretive park construction project that is also already funded, New Jersey’s spending more indeterminate dollars to cancel the park, fill in the hole and plant grass.
Meanwhile, downriver in Philadelphia, saner and cleverer lovers of history and economic development are opening the exciting President’s House on Independence Mall, steps from the Liberty Bell. It’s another (ahem) internationally significant archaeological site that is being beautifully interpreted and presented to a public and visitors who have already proven that it’s a big attraction. Hundreds watched from viewing platforms every day as the dig unfolded. Kudos to the City of Philadelphia and the National Park Service for their recognition that history and tourism mean economic activity.
No explanation, now, from the Governor’s or Lieutenant Governor’s offices in Trenton for the undue haste in filling in the Petty’s Run site. Preservationists and archaeologists wait anxiously for revelation of the plan for appropriate recordation, artifact retrieval, masonry conservation and careful protection of the site as it is filled. (The JMC approved this “project” not only without a budget but without a plan.)