State-Owned Historic Places: How Will The New Parks Plan Affect Them?
On November 2, the Christie administration released “Sustainable Funding Strategy for New Jersey State Parks,” a plan aimed at addressing the current and future stewardship of New Jersey’s state parks. The plan outlines intended steps toward
addressing the budgetary issues that threaten our state parks from all angles.
The basic goals of the plan are to increase the revenues generated by state parks, re-structure the way that the park system’s budget is funded, and address deficiencies in services at parks. The plan focuses on partnering with private and non-profit partners for various stewardship and operational needs, such as concessions, that are currently largely the responsibility of the state alone.
Overall, this plan is potentially encouraging news for historic resources on state-owned lands. While in an ideal world, the state would be able to maintain and operate the historic resources it owns, the reality is that the state of New Jersey owns thousands of historic properties, in various states of repair, for which it will not, in the foreseeable future, have the funds for appropriate stewardship. While certainly, detailed guidelines and case-by-case analysis will be necessary, privatization opportunities could save countless historic resources that otherwise will go without even basic maintenance, much less real stewardship, because there’s simply no money and no one to take them on.
The details will be significant, and the question are many. What uses will be allowed? If a resource requires rehabilitation before use, who will oversee this and how can we ensure that work is completed according to the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation? How will the state incentivise rehabilitation of existing structures over new construction? How will resources be prioritized? Plans involving historic resources should be developed on a case-by-case basis, and monitored for compliance with historic preservation standards and to ensure protection of resource integrity, and it will be up to the preservation community at large to stay on top of how this plan plays out in order to ensure that historic resources are prioritized and treated appropriately. But in general, an initiative to leverage outside investment could open up new opportunities for the rehabilitation and use of historic properties. Even if only a handful of historic resources are able to remain in/transition into use via this plan, this would be better than the alternative- shuttered, vacant, deteriorating buildings- if new stewardship opportunities are not pursued.
You can read the “Sustainable Funding Strategy for New Jersey State Parks” plan here, and the Governor’s press release on the plan here.
And don’t forget about a related initiative, Bill A763/S2570, which would allow the leasing of historic resources in exchange for rehabilitation and stewardship. We have indications that this bill may be up for voting in the NJ Senate sometime soon. Stay tuned for action alerts…