One national park in the U.S. remains open — in New Jersey

October 10, 2013
Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park on June 12, 2013. The photographer, Leonard A. Zax, is the President of the Hamilton Partnership for Paterson. (Photo by Leonard A. Zax) Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park on June 12, 2013. The photographer, Leonard A. Zax, is the President of the Hamilton Partnership for Paterson. (Photo by Leonard A. Zax)

While national parks across the country have been shuttered due to the current budget impasse, one remains open and operating: New Jersey’s Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park.

A real estate fluke accounts for why the park, which celebrates the area’s gritty industrial history and roaring waterfalls, is unaffected by the partial government shutdown. The National Park Service has not yet acquired the land; most of it is owned by the Paterson Municipal Utilities Authority.

“It’s a national park, but the city technically controls the land,” explained the Hamilton Partnership for Paterson president Leonard Zax, whose nonprofit played a key role in creating the park two years ago. “The city is open for business.”

Granted, the park’s superintendent and ranger are furloughed, and the Park Service has yet to open a visitor’s center or refreshment stand on site. But the city has a cultural center as well as a museum, both of which provide tourists with an overview of the park and the city’s rich history.

Alexander Hamilton envisioned it as the perfect place for the nation’s first industrial site; Pierre L’Enfant designed a “raceway” canal system, and it later became known as “Silk City” for its many silk factories. It served as the birthplace of both the Colt revolver and the modern submarine, examples of which are in the city’s museum.

The land will likely be transferred to the federal government in about a year, after some soil remediation is finished and a portion of the land is improved at the state’s expense. (Like we said, it was an industrial town.)

And while no one is giving tours, the Hamilton Partnership has created the “Mill Mile” audio tour, a smartphone app featuring NBC anchor Brian Williams as its narrator that can be downloaded with ease.

So let the New Jersey tourist rush begin.

Juliet Eilperin is The Washington Post's White House bureau chief, covering domestic and foreign policy as well as the culture of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. She is the author of two books—one on sharks, and another on Congress, not to be confused with each other—and has worked for the Post since 1998.
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