Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy 2012!!!

Happy New Year everyone! What a spectacular firework show here in Philadelphia! I surely hope 2012 will be a promising year and that we all accomplish our resolutions. For this year, I must travel extensively and take more photos. That's my resolution to fulfill. I was glad to open the new year shooting my camera.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Passaic Falls

I consider this place as New Jersey's Niagara Falls. It is known as the Great Passaic Falls of the Passaic River located in Paterson, New Jersey. This area is generally out of the way for me, but since its recent designation as Paterson Great Falls National Historic Park in November of this year, my fascination has grown. It is a 77 ft (23m) high waterfall that has also lead to the growth of the City of Paterson through industry. It has always been an iconic New Jersey landmark and one of the best places to see in the northern section of the state. Lately it has not been as popular as it deserves to be. Few visitors frequent the area and benches nearby are usually empty. But hopefully the involvement of National Park Service will change that. The water was low when I came over, so it was more exciting to photograph the top of the falls as opposed to the base of it. I plan to hopefully come more often as it is about a hour or less away from the Delaware Water Gap, one of my all time favorite places.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Valley Forge National Historic Park

As you perhaps know I am a fan of National Parks due to their majestic natural beauty and the serenity of the great outdoors. But some are preserved due to their historic value and thus are set aside from development due to their significance in playing a key role in the nation’s historic, natural, and cultural values. A sense of national pride lies within these places that have become embraced and protected by the people; leading to legislative action to designate them as public parks. Such parks can be found in both rural and urban areas including Philadelphia, a city with so much historic value, that signs of National Park Service can be found in the heart and in the outskirts of the city. The main historic tourist attraction of the city, Independence Hall, is easily accessible by public transportation and arguably one of the most visited sites in the area. One other place located in the outskirts of the city however has so much history that it is also managed by National Park Service. Out of all the Winter encampments of American General George Washington and his army, the Valley Forge Encampment of 1777-1778 received the most fame since it resulted in more casualties, and more significant changes to the American Army. What led to this event to play a significant chapter in the American Revolutionary War?

After the American Colonies declared Independence on July 4, 1776, the newly founded nation began its long struggle to achieve and maintain the status of being an independent country. While the British gained significant progress such as in New York, the Colonists scored victories in New Jersey, which promised both sides a long war ahead. Hoping to break the stalemate of the war, British Generals proposed a campaign to invade Philadelphia, the site where independence was declared. Under the leadership of General William Howe, Philadelphia was to be invaded and Washington’s army eliminated as a threat to British efforts. In the aftermath of the Battle of Brandywine on September 11, 1777, Philadelphia fell into British Hands. It was a severe loss to the revolutionary cause and decisive symbolic victory for the British. One of the Colonists’ major cities and the cradle for independence was now at British hands and Washington was now at retreat. With the threat of winter settling along, Washington had to find a strategic location to camp as both sides sit out the cruel winter. The wet wintry weather would cause muddy terrain, heavy rain/snow and conditions not fit for fighting. Neither the British, nor the Americans preferred to fight in such poor weather and preferred to sit out the season before initiating another major campaign. While the British held Philadelphia, Washington’s Army sought refuge in a rural countryside named Valley Forge due to a nearby iron forge. It was about twenty miles northwest or about a day’s march from the city. After a final skirmish at White Marsh, Washington’s ill equipped troops marched toward the location, arriving there on December 19, 1777. Inadequately clothed, troops were forced to construct cabins themselves.  Short food supply, bad weather, and threat of disease made life miserable for the troops. The area was nevertheless easily defensible with high ground and the Schuylkill River as a barrier.

During this season of hibernation, as many as two thousand may have perished in the cruel winter. But few deserted and the army held together. Many great figures of the Revolution came about at Valley forge such as Nathaniel Greene due to his efforts to provide soldiers with basic necessities and Baron Friedrich von Steuben for priceless training and drill instructions that molded the undisciplined army into an effective fighting force. On June 18, 1778, the army left Valley Forge in pursuit of the British who fled north. Washington and his men left behind memories of suffering, but emerged otherwise determined to fight on.

The war would continue for another five years, and Washington and his troops would endure even more winter encampments such as the brutal winter at Morristown 1779-1780, but the experiences at Valley Forge remained with the soldiers as a valuable lesson that helped propel them to eventual victory. In spite of the tragedies, and lack of any decisive or strategic military accomplishments during the Valley Forge Encampment of 1777-1778, many argue that it gave birth to the American Army. Many historians agree, that out of the suffering, the army was united even more. Emboldened by perseverance, effective leadership, and unity, Washington’s Army left Valley Forge highly motivated and more willing to fight than ever before.

Well known parks intended with recreation in mind include Yellowstone National Park, Yosemite National Park, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. These areas managed by National Park Service are important due to their natural beauty and environmental benefits. Such sites quite naturally invite recreational usage and National Park Service accommodates such activities respectfully, although reasonable rules still apply to avoid any possible damage. Other sites on the other hand may forbid or restrict recreation such as Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Oklahoma City National Memorial, World Trade Center Site, and African Burial Ground National Monument. This is due to a solemn theme, lack of natural space or resources, location conflict, or other reasons. A site with more historic value and yet contains enough landscape such as Gettysburg National Military Park, Yorktown Battlefield, and Valley Forge National Historic Park, must carefully consider recreational usage with caution since their intended purpose is for history, yet their vast space allows such recreational opportunities to exist. These must be permitted in compliance with National Park Service’s dedication to the enjoyment of the people while protecting the natural and historic resources. Valley Forge’s scenic landscape and natural resources can be perceived as a blessing, for those who want the site to be more consistent with national parks that serve for the enjoyment of the people. In the meantime, it can also be seen as a curse for those who would stress the only value of such a site is for historical and education al purposes and that recreational usage would be either distracting or destructive. National Park Service was faced with a task to utilize Valley Forge’s resources to benefit all parties within reason and in the meantime, stay true to their word to protect and preserve for the benefit of the people.

Visitors stroll by replicated cabin's. A place meant for historic preservation has become a place for basic recreation due to the natural landscape that many parks are known for.

A replicated canon stands by ready to fend off any intrusion. Unlike its predecessors more than two hundred years ago, this canon is pointed at the highly developed Philadelphia suburban area, which has threatened the site's existence in the past.