Tower could be closed
By: CHRISTIAN MENNO The Intelligencer
Bowman's Hill Tower in Washington Crossing Historic Park could face temporary closure due to staffing cuts.
If things don't change soon, the visitors center won't be the only attraction that could see its doors closed temporarily at Washington Crossing Historic Park.
Site administrator Hilary Krueger said Thursday that Bowman's Hill Tower most likely won't open as it usually does in mid-April, due to staffing cuts. The 125-foot structure in Solebury was built in 1931 as a monument to George Washington and his army.
The tower is off River Road in the upriver portion of the two parks that make up Washington Crossing Historic Park. The upper section contains the tower, a fenced wildflower preserve, a historic gristmill and stone house and the burial ground of Revolutionary War soldiers.
Seasonal employees usually staff an admission office near the elevator. It takes visitors to the top of the tower, where they can see New Hope and Lambertville and the Delaware River's flow into Lower Bucks. Krueger said the state museum/historical commission's seasonal staffing budget has been eliminated.
"We're not the only site affected by this, but it's true that, at this point, we don't have the staff to maintain the tower on a regular basis," Krueger said. "It's a concern. The tower is a big attraction. We are exploring our options at this point."
Commission Executive Director Barbara Franco said the budget cuts were made by the governor's office.
"At this point, this has been a very rough year for the state," she said Thursday. "We are trying to see if we can move other areas of programming around and prioritize more in order to get the tower open."
She added that no final decision has been made regarding the tower or the park's visitors center. Deteriorating conditions at the visitors center, including a leaky roof and mold, have been cited by the park administration as the reason for possible closure of the center in the lower park in Washington Crossing.
"We are struggling to come up with the best solutions with a very difficult budget and are trying to move forward with renovations," Franco said. "I think there might be some more clarity after the (March 18) commissioners meeting."
Franco reiterated that the potential closure of the visitors center has nothing to do with staffing issues, unlike the possible tower closure.
Upper Makefield Supervisor Dan Rattigan said last week that he suspected the potential closing of the visitors center might be due to the museum commission's inability to pay its staff.
"I understand how frustrating this all is, but it's encouraging to see that the community is so concerned," Franco said. "We understand loud and clear how significant these issues are to people."
Christian Menno can be reached at cmenno@phillyBurbs.com.
March 13, 2009