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(TRENTON) – Assembly-approved legislation Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman and Assemblyman Reed Gusciora sponsored to prohibit the Christie administration from burying a historic archeological dig alongside the State House was advanced Thursday by a Senate 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.

“This is a compelling and unique site that could, if properly restored, be of great interest to school children and visitors to Trenton. 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,” said Watson Coleman (D-Mercer). “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 bill will help preserve our history, since the administration refuses to do so.”

“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,”said Gusciora (D-Mercer). “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. 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 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.

The bill was approved 45-29-2 by the Assembly last month and released Thursday by the Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism & Historic Preservation Committee.