(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman and Assemblyman Reed Gusciora that would prohibit the Christie administration from burying a historic archeological dig alongside the State House was released Thursday by an Assembly panel.
The bill (A-3699) prohibits the Department of Environmental Protection, the state treasurer and the State Capitol Joint Management Commission from taking any action that would result in the closure of the Petty’s Run archaeological excavation site.
The State Capitol Joint Management Commission voted 5-2 in November to bury the Petty’s Run archaeological site on the State House grounds that features sections of mills dating back to the 1730s.
“We already knew that Gov. Christie’s administration doesn’t respect education, arts and culture, and now we know it would literally rather bury our history than celebrate it,” said Watson Coleman (D-Mercer). “This is becoming a disturbing trend. Burying this archaeological dig at the State House would be a blow to our heritage and efforts to recognize it and promote it as a tourist attraction and economic development tool.”
“This extraordinary step of burying Trenton’s past is without any foresight,” said Gusciora (D-Mercer). “There is great potential to keep the archaeological site exposed as a living history park for future generations to learn about Trenton’s history dating back to the 1700’s. To just bury these artifacts up without any further consideration to the importance of such a site is remarkable.”
The bill would also require that the DEP work to stabilize the site, as well as continue its efforts to preserve and interpret the findings, regardless of future completion of the Capital State Park.
“This is a compelling and unique site that could, if properly restored, be of great interest to school children and visitors to Trenton. Instead, it will be forsaken and buried for no logical reason,” Watson Coleman said. “I can’t help but feel that a site like this would have been touted and emphasized by the administration had it been found somewhere other than Trenton. This nonsensical decision is a painful blow to Trenton, our state and our shared heritage as New Jerseyans, and it must be reversed.”
“If you visit Jerusalem, Israel or Rome today, you can explore such exposed ruins as history trails and learn first hand about events that took place centuries ago,” Gusciora said. “If Petty’s Run was left as an open site, it could increase tourism in Trenton as well as provide a place where students could explore our past. This would be a unique educational tourist attraction to the downtown Trenton area.”
The bill was released 3-0-2 by the Assembly Tourism and Arts Committee.