PATERSON, NJ - U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-09), Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Gov. Phil Murphy, Mayor and Andre Sayegh, joined dozens of residents, supporters, and visitors in a celebration the tenth anniversary of Paterson Great Falls National Historic Park on Friday. In a ceremony overlooking the gorgeous natural falls, the leaders honored those hallowed grounds with stories of the hard work that won the federal designation, praised the terrific progress made in the last decade, and looked forward to the park’s future.
Park Superintendent Darren Boch, influential in the development in his own right, kicked off the event, setting the context of the celebration, with the Falls serving as the backdrop.
One by one each speaker would bring about reminders of the obstacles in gaining such epic status. “The success of the Great Falls is a victory of cooperation and years of painstaking work between federal, state, and local leaders,” said Pascrell. This success resulted in one of the greatest crown jewels of New Jersey, Pascrell shared, “The result is beyond words: a restored National Historic Park that every member of this community can wrap their arms around in pride.
"Most of all this is celebration of our future, of what great events lay ahead for this community and this country. As the Great Falls has been reborn and grows still, so too will Paterson with her.”
This sentiment preceded Rep. Pascrell’s swearing in of Junior Rangers, children ages 5 to 13, gathered to recite their own oaths of service and commitment, thanks to a program offered by the National Park Service. This tender moment underscored the hopes that in part inspired the architects of this endeavor which include that future generations of Patersonians, New Jerseyians, and all Americans, will enjoy the fruits of their labor.
“I challenge anyone to think of a place that tells America’s story better than Paterson Great Falls. Its rushing waters are a monument to our identity as a nation of immigrants, and Alexander Hamilton’s great American dream. Its place as the home of Hinchliffe Stadium is a monument to our long struggle to build a more perfect union. And when we fully restore the Passaic’s raceways, they too will be a monument to the innovative spirit that has always defined the American people,” said Sen. Menendez. “The success of Paterson Great Falls National Historic Park and the surrounding area’s transformation is a testament to the drive, vision and cooperation of our federal, state and local leaders.”
Menendez and his Senate colleague, Cory Booker, as well as Pascrell used the event as an opportunity to urge Acting National Park Service Director Dan Smith to prioritize the restoration of the historic raceway system, the 19th Century canals that delivered water from the Passaic River and provided critical hydro-electric power to the Silk City’s mills and factories, within the Paterson Great Falls National Historic Park boundaries.
Restoration of the system is considered the next phase of the area’s revitalization.
“Without the Great Falls, there would be no Paterson, where America’s industrial might took root,” said Governor Murphy, who just weeks ago was in Paterson to announce a program offering tax credits to developers that undertake projects restoring building like those that sit adjacent to the National Park. “Today, we are working together – local, state, and federal officials – to restore the promise of Paterson alongside its natural and historic anchor."
“The Great Falls is where Paterson was born and it is where it will be reborn. The hard work of Congressman Pascrell, Senator Menendez, and the late Senator Lautenberg made this day possible, and having a national park within our city limits puts Paterson on the map,” said Mayor Andre Sayegh. “Since the designation ten years ago, we have welcomed hundreds of thousands of visitors to these beautiful falls, and they will help us transform Paterson into a well-known tourist destination in this region. But the National Park also serves our own residents, as they too deserve to enjoy the natural wonder that gave birth to the first industrial city in the United States. Like Alexander Hamilton, Patersonians can picnic by the Falls and enjoy the improvements made possible through support of the National Park Service. Thank you, Congressman Pascrell and Senator Menendez, for leaving such a legacy for generations of Patersonians to come.”
The Great Falls National Historical Park was officially created in March, 2009, when President Barack Obama signed the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act which contained the language authorizing the designation. In 2014, through the efforts of Pascrell and Menendez, the park was expanded to include the historic Hinchcliffe Stadium, a Negro League ballpark that played host to Josh Gibson, Oscar Charleston, Monte Irvin, and scores of baseball legends. Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Larry Doby grew up in Paterson and played high school sports at Hinchcliffe.
Since its inception the Great Falls has played host to a number local celebrations including grade school park events, food festivals, multicultural celebrations, bike shows, motorcycle runs, and other events. Since its designation and revitalization, the Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park has repeatedly set new records of attendance, having a record 308,199 visitors in 2017, and over 629,000 between 2016-18.