PATERSON, NJ- There’s Yosemite and Yellowstone, Grand Canyon and Grand Teton, celebrations of beauty, centers of tourism. But, thanks to the work of so many that lived in and loved Paterson, the Silk City, since 2011, can boast of being the home to its very own national park.
Calling the history of the falls, and the role the natural wonder has played in the development of Paterson over the past 225 years, a “uniquely American story,” Bob Guaraci, Founder and CEO, New Jersey Community Development Corporation, presided over a special celebration marking the sixth anniversary of the official declaration of the historic landmark as a national park on Monday.
Darren Boch, Superintendent of the Paterson Great Falls National Historic Park, spoke at the event, thanking the many partners who made the day possible, suggesting that it was their shared efforts that will insure that the park continues to “function, operation, grow, flourish and inspire.”
Among the events hosted at the park in the past twelve months were an Earth Day clean up with over 500 volunteers, an eclipse party that attracted over 2000 guests, and their fourth annual naturalization event which saw the swearing in of 44 new American citizens. In total, Boch told the crowd, over 180,000 visitors came to the park, proving that all of those responsible for its designation have indeed “created a destination” and launched a “turnaround conversation about the city.
Sharing a strategy of “aiming big, shooting for the stars,” Martin Vergara, President, Hamilton Partnership Board of Trustees, spoke of his organization’s efforts to make the park even more of a destination through the development of a “modern urban visitors center, intertwined with new trailways.” While there is much work to be done, the accomplishments to date, and willingness by so many to make the overall project a success, shows that there are “good tailwinds,” according to Vergara.
Offering the audience a more in depth look at the various project encompassed by the overall Great Falls Park plans, including the redesign of Overlook Park, rehabilitation of Hinchcliffe Stadium and reuse of the ATP Quarry Lawn, Gianfranco Archimede, executive director of Paterson’s Historic Preservation Commission, suggested that in its totality the park will tell a “complex story of the interaction of land and people.”
Reminding those in attendance that despite the day being one to mark the signing of an agreement, Archimedes said the park was “not founded by the stroke of a pen,” While the work has been “arduous,” he added it will be a huge benefit to the City of Paterson and one that ultimately tells the “complex story of the interaction of nature and people.”
Saying that the Great Falls is where “Paterson attributes its birth, and where our rebirth will start,” Councilman Andre Sayegh, who also chairs the body’s Economic Development Committee, expressed high hopes for what he envisions having a national park in Paterson will mean for the city.
With local support growing for the idea of cultivating the area into one that hosts the “Halls at the Falls,” Sayegh believes that it is the ideal location for, and has already engaged in discussions to bring the New Jersey Hall of Fame, the New Jersey Music Hall of Fame, and a branch of the Negro Leagues Baseball Hall of Fame to the Paterson. Once in Paterson, Andre continued, visitors will be drawn to the city's multi-cultural amenities and wide variety of ethnic dining options. This, he suggested, will provide great economic opportunities for all of the city's neighborhoods.
“This is no longer about drawings and pretty pictures,” Sayegh said following the event. “When it comes to the Great Falls the dreams of so many are coming true, and that only means better things for the residents that call Paterson home.