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Battle Lines: Grassroots Opponents vs. Porkbarrel Politics, NGO's, & National Park Service


Final Extent of Preservation Strip Threatens Undefined Areas Beyond New Jersey

By Carol W. LaGrasse
March 23, 2004


An ambitious bill to establish the Crossroads of the American Revolution National Heritage Area in New Jersey and nearby states has been held up in the United States Congress for more than one and one half years. Grassroots activists from the immediately affected areas of New Jersey have been pursuing their local officials and Congressional delegates to withhold or drop their support. Petitions, letters, and public statements have given the opposition significant visibility, but the enticement of pork-barrel tourism has a number of municipalities lined up at the trough, in spite of the proposal's threatening long-range implications. In addition, the similarly named "Crossroads of the American Revolution" non-government organization (NGO); the Delaware and Raritan Greenway, Inc., a well-connected non-profit preservation organization that is active in regional greenway efforts; as well as other historical and environmental groups are behind the bill.

Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R- N.J.) re-introduced the Crossroads Heritage Area bill (HR.524) last year after it failed to move during the 107th Congress. It lurks in the House Natural Resources Committee chaired by Rep. Richard Pombo (R- Cal.), who is widely known for his staunch defense of private property rights. Sen. Jon J. Corzine (D - N.J.) introduced the parallel Senate Crossroads Heritage Area bill (S. 230), where it currently resides in the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, chaired by Sen. Pete V. Domenici (R - N. M.).

The Crossroads of the American Revolution National Heritage Area would include all or part of fourteen counties in New Jersey, stretching from the Delaware River to the Atlantic ocean, and from Gloucester County in the south-central part of the state almost to the New York border in Bergen County. The area included is based on George Washington's retreat across New Jersey to Pennsylvania, the re-crossing of the Delaware and advance across New Jersey with victories in Trenton and Princeton, 296 military engagements in New Jersey, and several National Historic Landmarks related to the Revolution.

The Crossroads bill focuses on regulation of the landscape. In the "findings," the bill declares, "Congress finds that…portions of the landscapes important to the strategies of the British and Continental armies, including waterways, mountains, farms, wetlands, villages, and roadways…retain the integrity of the period of the American Revolution; and…offer outstanding opportunities for conservation, education, and recreation."

Buttressing the landscape preservation goal central to the proposed Crossroads Heritage Area, the bill pronounces a Congressional finding that "because of the important role that the State of New Jersey played in the successful outcome of the American Revolution, there is a Federal interest in developing a regional framework to assist the State of New Jersey, local governments and organizations, and private citizens in…preserving and protecting cultural, historic, natural resources of the period."

One of the fiscal and organizational tools of greenways, including National Heritage Area projects, is to generate complex interrelationships of agencies involved, in focusing on tourism and preservation and in implementing a regulatory structure. The structure of greenway regulation can be singular, as in the Congressionally established interstate Columbia Gorge Commission, or spidery and evolutionary, as in many National Heritage Areas under development as federal greenways. The idea is that so many agencies are involved that no single one is the focus comprehension f the program, criticism and complaints, and the regulatory effects, which are desired have no single genesis. Regional agencies and agencies that cross traditional governing jurisdictions are among the multiplicity of agencies involved and are favored for funding, as are projects that involve several traditional local government jurisdictions working together. Local government is usurped, subverted and coopted, and becomes a tool of the skilled National Park Service administrators, their not-profit manipulators, and selected consultants.

This tactic of diffusing existing elected governmental agencies within the governance structure for the National Heritage Area is nicely illustrated in the proposed Congressional mandate for the Crossroads Area.

The Management Plan is to include "an inventory of the cultural, educational, historic, natural, recreational, and scenic resources of the Heritage Area related to the themes of the Heritage Area that should be restored, managed, or developed; and…recommendations of policies and strategies for resource management that result in (i) application of appropriate land and water management techniques; and (ii) development of intergovernmental and interagency cooperative agreements to protect the cultural, educational, historic, natural, recreational, and scenic resources of the Heritage Area."

This wording reflects standard ideas and language common to Heritage Area programs. The word "partnership" is also ubiquitous in such programs; it can be an excellent example of doublespeak, where one party is at a disadvantage, drawn into the program by federal mandate or pork-barrel available only to participants, e.g. "partners."

The Morristown National Historical Park superintendent has been a key player in the development and promotion of the Crossroads Heritage Area. According to the bill, one of its purposes is "to strengthen the value of the Morristown National Historical Park as an asset to the State by—(A) establishing a network of related historic resources, protected landscapes, educational opportunities, and events depicting the landscape of the State of New Jersey during the American Revolution; and (B) establishing partnerships between Morristown National Historical Park and other public and privately owned resources in the Heritage Area that represent the strategic fulcrum of the American Revolution…"

In common with the policy for other National Heritage Areas, the bill would enact a "management entity" and a management plan. The act would commission the non-profit "Crossroads of the American Revolution," which would be the management entity, to create the management plan for the Heritage Area. Coupled with the required recommendations cited above to manage resources with appropriate land and water management techniques and the intergovernmental and interagency cooperative agreements to protect all the cultural and natural resources, the management plan's five-year implementation plan must include "plans for resource protection, restoration, construction; and specific commitments for implementation that have been made by the management entity or any government, organization, or individual." This means that, in addition to all the promotional projects and historic preservation that involve construction, sites and regional landscapes are to be bought up by government or NGO's and controlled with zoning and other regulation

The bill would authorize the management entity to be compensated for virtually any purpose — grants; technical assistance; cooperative agreements with government agencies, not-profits, or any other person; hiring staff with "expertise in cultural, historic, or natural resource protection"; contracting for goods and services; and doing any other activity that "furthers the purposes of the Heritage Area…and that is consistent with the management plan."

Some telling features required for the implementation of the management plan by the management entity are to "assist units of local government, regional planning organizations, and nonprofit organizations in implementing the approved management plan by…carrying out programs and projects that recognize, protect, and enhance important resource values in the Heritage Area;" and "promoting a wide range of partnerships among governments, organizations, and individuals to further the purposes of the Heritage Area."

The management entity is to be a kind of gatekeeper. One of its duties is to "encourage, by appropriate means, economic viability that is consistent with the purposes of the Heritage Area." Not only is the management entity to have this drift to its much-touted economic development function, but, along with the National Park Service, it also is a gatekeeper with respect to all federal agencies. The act states: "Other Agencies— Any Federal agency conducting or supporting an activity that directly affects the Heritage Area shall…consult with the Secretary and the management entity regarding the activity;…cooperate with the Secretary and the management entity in carrying out the [actions] [this word was omitted from the published bill] of the Federal agency under this Act…" (The "Secretary" referred to in the bill is the Secretary of Interior, the agency which contains the National Park Service.) The bill's wording leads to the conclusion that the expenditure of the federal portion of highway construction funds, HUD funds, education funds, and the like would require Park Service approval.

The Crossroads proposal exemplifies the National Park Service's drive for nationwide landscape preservation—controlled by that particular federal agency. The Park Service's National Heritage Areas threaten private property rights for many reasons, but three fundamental reasons stand out. The Heritage Areas are classical greenways. Greenways have three major components, rigid regional or federal control over land use for preservation, government land acquisition for preservation, and regional or longer trails.

These Heritage Areas work in conjunction with other federal (and state) land acquisition and land regulation schemes. In New Jersey, the federally designated greenways and other federal designations cover the entire southern half of the state and the strip along the Delaware River from the central part of the state to the northwestern border. These include the National Park Service Coastal Heritage Area, New Jersey Pinelands National Reserve (a United Nations Biosphere Reserve, a program coordinated in the U.S. by the Park Service), Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, Morristown National Historical Park, and Delaware River Heritage Trail; the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge and USFWS Forsythe Spit National Wildlife Refuge (near Atlantic City).

The geographic area of central and much of northern New Jersey is not covered by existing federal areas. These proposals would be remedied with a bevy of additional federal designations now in the hopper in various stages. These proposals would fill in virtually all the remaining geographic area of New Jersey with federal designations: National Park Service Crossroads of the American Revolution National Heritage Area, Lower Delaware River Management Plan, Washington-Rochambeau National Historic Revolutionary Trail, and Lincoln Highway (US80) National Heritage Area (New Jersey to California); U.S. Forest Service Highlands Conservation Area (formerly referred to as Highlands Stewardship Area), and USFWS Trenton-Hamilton Marsh/Crosswicks Creek National Wildlife Refuge (a draft bill by Rep. Chris Smith, R - N.J.)

Not-Profit Relationships

National Heritage Areas are pre-zoning devices originating with the National Park Service. Land use controls are intended to arrive in connection with the multiplicity of overlays and agency involvements, including those developed by the ultimate management plan, which will follow the line of National Park Service and non-profit organizations, in spite of dutiful public hearings held to "hear out" and thereby dismiss the criticisms of local residents. The Park Service typically works with other regional zoning and non-profits such as the Raritan Delaware and Raritan Greenway, a land trust active in the region, to guide localities toward regional control over land use. The Delaware and Raritan Greenway also is leading the designation of the Trenton-Hamilton Marsh/Crosswicks Creek National Wildlife Refuge.

The Delaware and Raritan Greenway has unusual status in connection with the Crossroads Heritage Area proposal. According to an official announcement of the Crossroads of the American Revolution study by Michael D. Henderson and Linda J. Mead on the Park Service letterhead, "The Delaware and Raritan Greenway has been chosen as the lead private partner with the National Park Service for the Crossroads study. Linda Mean, D&R Greenway Executive Director, has been named as the project leader for this effort."

William J. Opferman of Hamilton, N.J., inquired about the employment of Executive Director Mead of the Delaware and Raritan Greenway. According to a November 2001 letter replying to him from Morristown National Historical Park Superintendent Michael D. Henderson, "Linda Mead is a paid employee of the National Park Service and also maintains her association with the Delaware and Raritan Greenway." Revolving door relationships and overlapping relationships like this involving preservationist non-profits and government agencies have yet to gain wide public scrutiny.

According to Mr. Opferman, another insider relationship involved the non-profit organization "Crossroads of the American Revolution" with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Historical Preservation Office during 2002. After receiving mailings of the Park Service's press release about the proposed Washington-Rochambeau National Historic Trail and the non-profit "Crossroads of the American Revolution" printed material sent by the Historical Office, Mr. Opferman complained to the State Attorney General's Office and the Ethical Standards Division, but no publicly revealed action was taken.

The Delaware and Raritan Greenway non-profit is also active in a proposal for National Wildlife Refuge status for the Hamilton-Trenton Marsh and Crosswicks Creek around Trenton. The marsh is located in the area of Trenton on the Delaware, where the Raritan Canal flows nearby, and the Crosswicks Creeks flows into the Delaware at that area in the vicinity of Trenton. This refuge proposal is a typical regional example of a preservation effort underway to tighten up land use and systematically eliminate private ownership of areas deemed sensitive by preservationists, while cutting out traditional access to the area for fishing, boating, and other sporting purposes. The draft plans for the refuge would benefit the Delaware and Raritan Greenway, which is a land trust, by making it possible for the group to transfer its land to the federal government.

The Underlying Meaning of the Crossroads Heritage Area

Historical preservation is admittedly a surrogate issue for landscape preservation in the case of the Crossroads of the American Revolution.

"A National Heritage Area is a congressional designation that provides for federal support to local governments, organizations and individuals for implementation of specific goals," the Henderson-Mead announcement states. "These goals may support open space and historic preservation, education, heritage tourism and compatible economic development."

"This partnership created between the public and private sector aims to maximize resource protection and appreciation…," continues the announcement. "Heritage areas, of which there are 23 nationally, are first and foremost the result of local awareness and desires to protect the special landscapes and resources of the region."

Heritage Areas continually shift private property to government agencies and tax-exempt land trusts. The remaining land becomes more expensive and taxes on it increase as the burden of maintaining government services is shifted to it. As related above, the Delaware and Raritan Greenway land trust has acquired land within the Hamilton Marsh area that would be transferred to the federal government.

Each Heritage Area invariably includes a trail, opening up private property to infringements and liability. The National Park Service has proposed a National Historic Trail called the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route to trace the 1781 march of General George Washington and French General Comte de Rochambeau and their armies from Newport, Rhode Island to the American Revolution's climatic battle at Yorktown, Virginia. The Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route Study was authorized by Congress through the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Heritage Act of 2000. The study purpose was to determine whether the route is eligible to become a National Historic Trail. The public meetings that the National Park Service calls in connection with such studies fail to inform the public that the creation of a trail means that, because the Park Service will own the trail, it will have to acquire land for it. Such meetings do not inform the public that the National Park Service uses and threatens to use eminent domain to acquire trails and to enlarge the width of trails once they are established. The Washington-Rochambeau National Trail would proceed across the entire width of central New Jersey through the middle of the proposed cross-state Crossroads of the American Revolution National Heritage Area. Judging be studies of related Revolutionary military movements, it appears likely that side branches to the National Trail would trace other military routes, causing additional infringements on private property rights. However, consistent with written organizational philosophy, trails are developed in segments, to show completeness of an element or two, rather than proceeding with too much at once and making the entire project vulnerable. Completing small elements lends an impetus to further steps.

Heritage Areas seek a regulated landscape where indigenous local people cannot afford to live locally because of expensive zoning parameters. Parallel to establishment of Heritage Areas, federal and state Scenic Byways and federal All-American Roads, which regulate or prohibit signs and control "viewscapes," affect small businesses and local homeowners. Workers drawn to places of meager employment by heritage tourism have difficulty finding a place to live, often having to travel daily for long distances to the hotels where they work; both male and female hotel workers are known to secretly live in their cars during the summer hotel season.

Another injustice in the proposal of Heritage Areas is in the National Park Service study and Heritage Area concept development process before the proposal is submitted to Congress. The failure of the Park Service to personally notify each of the property owners and residents of the Heritage Area that their property and residences are to be included in the proposed Area forestalls informed evaluation of the worthiness or problems of the proposal by potentially affected people.

One of the many important reasons why local opponents have organized against the bill is the lack of definition to the bounds of the proposed Crossroads of the Revolution National Heritage Area. The counties to be included in New Jersey are denoted in the official map referenced in the bill, but the entire extent in other states is not defined. Public statements have referenced a broader scope than the already-large portion of New Jersey designated on the map, and diagrammatic notes on the map where it meets adjacent states indicate tie-ins to other National Heritage Areas, including the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area in New York and the Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor and the Schuykill River Valley National Heritage Area in Pennsylvania.

Other National Heritage Areas and proposals also have problems with geographic definition. The wide swath of land comprising the Crossroads Heritage Area runs from the southwest to the northeast. Running just to the north of the Crossroads Area from the southwest to the northeast is the Highlands Conservation [or Stewardship] Area that is also before the Congress. The combined preservation area of the two proposed designations would encompass all of New Jersey except for the southern and southeastern portion, and would stream across southeastern New York to Connecticut taking in almost all of the area from the south edge of the Catskills to the edge of the metropolitan area. With the other existing and proposed Federal areas in New Jersey, the entire State would become overlays of Federal areas where national landscape controls would be imposed though the complex carrot and stick system exemplified in Heritage Areas.

From the beginning, the federal National Heritage Area program has displayed the transparent intention to establish federal zoning, greenway by greenway. A decade ago, over one-hundred linear Heritage Areas in various stages of implementation and under a number of auspices were discretely inventoried by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. This writer brought this inventory to the notice of Congress, which previously had a false impression that the congressional committee was originating the program as a relatively modest initiative in conjunction with the National Park Service. During the Clinton Administration, when Congress was somewhat obstructive of National Heritage Area proposals, Executive Orders added over a dozen federal greenways in a related new category, American Heritage Rivers.

In the seminal work Greenways for America commissioned by the Conservation Fund, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Rockefellers' American Conservation Association, author Charles E. Little bemoans the "mess" created by the lack of regional planning in America and welcomes greenways as a way toward better "settlement patterns."

Referring to a landscape preservationist who is the son of the well-known Alger Hiss, Little writes, "In the phrase of author Tony Hiss, what the urban-rural greenway infrastructure can create is 'landscape connectedness.' And connectedness has been the goal of regional planners for at least the past one hundred years."

"But comprehensive land-use planning on more than the most elementary level—mainly zoning in towns and cities—seems to beyond us," laments Little.

"As I have said, regional greenway networks will not themselves clean up the mess," Little writes. "But the idea of establishing such an infrastructure might very well give us a new and less controversial approach to regional planning by providing a geophysical framework for it, which, unlike that of highways and high-tension lines, is the framework of the landscape itself." (Little, Greenways for America, John Hopkins 1990, pp. 135, 136, italics in original)

The mission of establishing federal regional planning over America, where the federal government is not already the dominant landowner, drives the greenway movement, which has its home currently in the National Park Service and related non-profits such as land trusts like the Conservation Fund and the entities created for each particular greenway. The Crossroads proposal is not about preserving history. It is about landscape preservation, just as are the many other Heritage Areas. Historical preservation and all the other tools to justify greenways — the pork-barrel of every nature, the confusing partnerships, grants, "economic development," tourism-based Potemkin village centers, even environmental programs like wetlands protection and pollution control, are means toward one end, national land use planning under the control of landscape preservationists.

See: Conceptual Maps of Existing and Proposed Federal Areas in New Jersey (Wm. Opferman, PRFA, Feb. 2004)

Crossroads Bill Information:

House of Representatives: HR. 524 "Crossroads of the American Revolution National Heritage Area." Introduced by Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, referred to the Committee on Resources, Rep. Richard Pombo, Cal., Chair.

Senate: S. 230 - "Crossroads of the American Revolution National Heritage Area." Introduced by Sen. Jon S. Corzine, referred to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Sen. Pete V. Domenici, N.M., Chair.

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