PATERSON, NJ - The Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park has cleared a significant hurdle. After lengthy negotiations between federal and Paterson officials, the Municipal Utilities Authority and City Council on Tuesday approved a 14-page agreement setting many of the nitty-gritty details of the park's creation.
On Monday, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar is scheduled to come to the Great Falls overlook to sign the agreement.
Municipal officials hope the creation of the national park will bring waves of investors and tourists of Paterson and spur the city's revitalization.
"Developers already have started knocking at our door,'' said Mayor Jeffrey Jones. "This is our Disney World.''
In a year when a massive tax increase, police layoffs, and a flood overtime scandal brought discord and despair to City Hall, the national park creation provide some some welcome relief - celebration and applause.
Next, federal officials will begin a three-year process in creating the park's management plan, which will be the blueprint of what it will contains. Preliminary ideas being kicked around include, a gondola ride across the Passaic River, art exhibits, kayaking,nature trails and educational exhibits on the area's bounty of history.
At present, the federal government has set aside about $500,000 for the park's planning process. The park's creation will set in motion efforts to generate more significant funding for the amenities and exhibits.
Jones said Lowell, Mass. received $77 million in federal funding for its national park, one often referred to as a similar project to Paterson's because they are both cornerstones of America's industrial revolution. Jones said the Lowell mayor told him that the park eventually produced more than $450 million in other revenue and investments.
"I look forward to welcoming Secretary Salazar to my hometown of Paterson," said U.S. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-8), in a press release. "The upcoming dedication is much like the Great Falls – a testimony to the past work that has brought us to where we are today, and a promise of the rewards and achievements we have yet to realize.
"Secretary Salazar's visit will be a momentous occasion that will serve as the starting gun for the establishment of Paterson Great Falls National Historic Park,'' Pascrell added. "I truly believe that our prized natural and historic resource will one day be the crown jewel of the National Park System.”
This summer, some local officials feared the park was in danger as negotiations and between local officials and the city stalled.
"It took a long time to make sure the best interests of the city were represented,'' said Assad Akhter, Pascrell's deputy chief of staff.
The park will consist of four tracts on both sides of the river around the Great Falls. There will also be a Great Falls Historic District that will run from West Broadway down to Walker Street. It will creep into downtown, covering Mill Street and parts of Van Houten, Ellison, Spruce, Cianci and Jersey streets.
Here are some of the main issues covering in the 14-page agreement:
Paterson will continue to maintain the park property until the federal government has to the money to do it.
Paterson police will provide security and the federal government will reimburse the city for some of the work under terms in another agreement that has yet to be worked out.
The city will reexamine its Master Plan and strengthen its historic preservation ordinances.
The City will have to revive its Division of Redevelopment, a change that local officials acknowledge will have consequences for the budget.