Harrisburg (PA) Patriot-News Tuesday, April 8, 2008 VALLEY FORGE Keep nonhistorical structures off site of this hallowed ground A conference center and hotel in Valley Forge Historical National Park might aid the economy in suburban Philadelphia, but they have no place on this hallowed ground. Despite significant voices raised in opposition -- including park officials, the National Parks Conservation Association and major environmental groups -- the nonprofit American Revolution Center continues to push a project on 78 private acres within the park that also includes dormitories for visiting scholars and a restaurant. The centerpiece of the project would be what organizers hailed in an Associated Press report as the na tion's first museum dedicated to telling the story of the Revolutionary War, including more than 10,000 artifacts and manuscripts that have never been on public dis play. Organizers also are touting what they estimate as $48.5 million in regional economic benefits. Making the artifacts available to the public, telling the story of America's fight for independence and providing an educational resource facility are all great enhancements to the park. On that, no one is in disagreement, because this issue began with a public-private partnership plan to build a museum and education center next to the park's existing welcome center. But the American Revolution Center received an opportunity to purchase 78 private acres not far from a building that served as Gen. George Washington's headquarters during the Continental Army's famed encampment in the winter of 1777-78. Availability of the land -- site of the army commissary and departure point for 15,000 troops en route to the Battle of Monmouth -- led to more grandiose plans that are now the subject of public hearings in Lower Providence Twp., where the center would be located. Park officials and other opponents contend this development contradicts the history of the park since Washington's men endured squalid conditions. They also say it will cause irreparable damage to the landscape, and could turn into a tourist trap, as heavy marketing and promotion will be needed to attract enough visitors to financially support it. We agree and point supporters of this project toward Gettysburg, where the new $103 million museum and visitors center has a respectfully low profile -- it can't be seen from primary sites and is not on land involved in the Civil War battle. While locating a museum and education facility next to the visitors center makes the most sense, the National Park Service has indicated it would accept the new location minus the other facilities. That would seem to be a good compromise. There are plenty of hotels, restaurants and other modern amenities in close proximity to the park to accommodate visitors and researchers who want to learn more about where a poorly equipped and trained Continental Army regrouped while living in makeshift wooden huts amid cold and damp conditions, wearing frayed clothing and scratching for food. It seems almost sacrilegious to put modern amenities and comforts of this scale on grounds where men endured such hardships for freedoms and independence we enjoy 230 years later.