A significant part of any good management plan is an understanding of the significance of identified resources. This summer we are looking at resources in Ridley Creek State Park in Delaware County.For the past couple of years, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) and SHPO have been working together to develop policies and procedures for the management of cultural resources under DCNR’s control.
The National Register is the benchmark the SHPO uses for determining which properties are historically significant and worthy of preservation. A number of above ground and archaeological resources in DCNR’s parks and forests have been previously evaluated for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. However, many of these documentation efforts were carried out in the 1980s and 1990s, leaving a large gap in the availability of accurate, up-to-date information about cultural resources under DCNR’s operation.
This summer several interns have been given the opportunity to assist in this cultural resource management effort, which we are expecting will unfold like this:
- They will begin by updating National Register documentation and working with PA SHPO staff to prioritize the importance/significance of identified cultural resources.
- PA SHPO and DCNR will then consider National Register significance of resources alongside a number of other factors, including but not limited to park mission, resource condition, and public accessibility, in order to determine appropriate treatment procedures.
- Finally, treatment procedure guidance for cultural resources management will be developed for each park.
The ultimate goal is to incorporate this information into maintenance activities and planning of projects within parks and forests.
Three DCNR interns will be undertaking work on the cultural resources management plans this summer. Hunter Mengel, a graduate student in the Applied History Program at Shippensburg University, has been working at Ridley Creek State Park near Media and shares his experiences below. Updates from interns who will be working at Laurel Hill State Park will be included in a future blog.
My summer internship at Ridley Creek State Park presents a unique opportunity to not only get the experience of working in a state bureau, but to also leave the office and conduct field work.
I began my efforts by examining the National Register files in the SHPO office. Preparation of a National Register nomination for Ridley Creek State Park (key #000681) had begun in the 1960s and 1970s by The Bishop’s Mill Historical Society, and the property was finally listed in the National Register in 1991.
The entire park is listed in the National Register and includes 25 historic farm complexes that were purchased by Walter & Sarah Jeffords beginning in 1912 to form an estate that encompassed over 2000 acres. The areas of significance identified in the nomination include Agriculture, Architecture, Conservation, Education, Industry, and Recreation.
Since it has been over 25 years since the park was listed in the National Register, to date the focus of the project has been an effort to identify and photograph all of Ridley’s cultural resources and to evaluate their current National Register eligibility status.
Work on the project began by learning some of the basic history of the park as well as conducting research into the files of the SHPO and park offices.
A 1976 map prepared by D.W Harry for the Pennsylvania Register of Historic Sites/ Landmarks, a precursor to the National Register nomination, proved particularly helpful. The map and accompanying descriptions in the National Register nomination served as the baseline to figure out which resources were documented as part of the National Register nomination prepared for Ridley.
The map provided very useful during field work conducted which was carried out in conjunction with both SHPO and DCNR staff. Prior to the start of field work, a survey database that included information from DCNR’s Portal Real Estate database, and SHPO’s online inventory of cultural resources, CRGIS, was created. The database collects a variety of information that is useful to both agencies including location of the resource, condition, physical attributes and current function.
Using an application provided by the SHPO staff, called Survey123, field work efforts were made simple. The app recorded GPS coordinates, photographs, and information for buildings as well as ruins. Information from the app was then downloaded in the office and used to update the survey database.
The results of the field survey show that most of what is shown on the 1976 map and included in the 1991 National Register nomination survives, largely in fairly good condition.
The only issue encountered during survey was that several structures, buildings, and ruins could not be confirmed due to overgrowth of vegetation. As a continuation of the project, once the vegetation subsides for colder weather, another look will be needed for these locations.
The next step is for DCNR and SHPO staff to consider the information collected and make decisions about appropriate management and treatment procedures. So far, the project has been a very rewarding experience, and I cannot wait to see what the rest of the project will look like as the summer months continue.