Great Falls Park Proposal Advances
By: Michael Casey,
March 23, 2001
PATERSON -- Despite opposition from the Interior Department, a House subcommittee voted
Thursday to approve a bill that would authorize studying the merits of adding the Great Falls to the national
The House Committee on Resource's Subcommittee on National Park, Recreation, and Public Lands passed the
bill on a voice vote. The full committee will consider the bill next week.
"I am elated that the subcommittee listened carefully to our testimony and that they think the Great
Falls are worthy of further consideration as a national park," said Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., who
introduced the measure in the House. "I am especially heartened given the sentiment of some in the Bush
administration that there should be a moratorium on these types of studies. The subcommittee spoke loud and
clear today in a bipartisan way that this bill should move full steam ahead."
Last week, a Department of the Interior official recommended the committee defer action on the bill until
the National Park Service reduces the $4 billion backlog of studies and projects. President Bush has asked the
department to reduce the backlog within five years.
The department, which would do the study of the Great Falls, is imposing a temporary moratorium on new park
unit designations or new studies so that it can focus existing staff and resources on taking care of what it
On Thursday, Department of the Interior spokeswoman Stephanie Hanna said her agency's position had not
changed despite the vote.
"The Department of the Interior would continue resisting efforts from members of Congress to create
new units of the national park system," she said. "It's the Bush administration's view that the
national park administration has focused on new acquisitions, while the backlog on trails and sewer systems
has been neglected."
Still, Thursday's vote was welcomed in Passaic County, where a coalition of community leaders, politicians,
and historians have for years championed turning the Great Falls into a national park.
The 119-acre district in Paterson includes the 77-foot Great Falls, the Paterson Museum, and former
manufacturing mills. It has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1970 and has been a
National Historic Landmark since 1976.
"We're vindicated," said Pat DiIanni, president of Passaic County Vision 20/20, a non-profit
group concerned with quality of life issues. "We've been trying for the last few years to get things
going. We have high hopes this bill will be passed by Congress. If it becomes law, we'll prove a park is
suitable, feasible, and needed."