On December 11, the Washington Crossing Park Association (WCPA) of New Jersey held its annual meeting and celebration of its accomplishments with a cocktail party and program at the Barn at Gravity Hill. The WCPA is the friends organization that supports the Washington Crossing State Park of New Jersey. Founded in 2013, the WCPA works to preserve, enhance and advocate for the park and the history it represents.
The evening commenced with the presentation of colors by members of the First Rhode Island Regiment of Foot (First R.I.), a group of Revolutionary War re-enactors based in Trenton who portray the Continental Army’s “Black regiment.” They were joined in the presentation by WCPA member Stan Saperstein who led the attendees in the Pledge of Allegiance.
WCPA President Annette Earling explained that the WCPA and First R.I. recently formed a partnership and WCPA donated $3000 to the regiment to help them acquire authentic regimental uniforms. Also, First R.I. member Chuck Monroe has joined the WCPA Board. Earling noted that the men and women who re-enact in the present-day version of the regiment are dedicated to telling the story of African Americans in the earliest days of our nation and she said that the WCPA is very proud to be affiliated with them.
Earling went on to describe WCPA’s many accomplishments of the year including:
- The Historic Education and Preservation Committee was honored with a Hopewell Valley Historical Society Award for Significant Contributions to Historical Education in 2021. The committee presented three community educational talks on “Washington’s Crossing, the Rest of the Story,” via Zoom to about 100 people. They also presented the talk as part of the Hopewell Museum’s “Hopewell Valley Heritage Week.” They offered Guided Walking Tours to nine groups totaling about 85 people in 2021, distributing copies to the TenCrucialDays.org organization, Park visitors’ center, and Hopewell Valley Central High School. Finally, the Committee received a grant from the Mercer County History Regrant Program for the creation of the group’s new documentary video: “Crossing to Victory, Washington Recaptures New Jersey,” which can be seen at www.wcpa-nj.com
- The organization has been working on wayfinding signs within the Park for both historic and recreational sites. Signs at the Crossing Overlook were created and installed this year thanks to a grant from the NJ Historic Trust’s License Plate program. The WCPA is also working with State officials to get directional signage on route 95 and expect to see this signage on 95 very soon.
- The WCPA Trail Stewards have been working with Park employees Kevin Kavanaugh and Paul Moran to organize a growing troop of volunteers (currently numbering 17) who meet monthly to clear the trails. Soon they will have the funding and equipment needed to take on some real trail improvement projects like constructing water bars, steps, and bog bridges, and filling in holes and wet areas.
Earling also detailed the very sad state of the Park’s beloved Open Air Theatre, which, she said, has suffered greatly from vandals, neglect, and the back to back storms of this past summer.
Larry Kidder, author of numerous books on the history of the Hopewell Valley, introduced the WCPA’s recently released 13-minute video, “Crossing To Victory: Washington Recaptures New Jersey,” which examines some of the under-reported events and sites at the park which were vital to the success of General George Washington and the Continental Army’s crossing of the Delaware River and subsequent nine-mile march and surprise victory over German units of the British Army at Trenton on Christmas night, 1776.
“We hope this film will enhance public understanding of the fascinating and crucial American Revolutionary War events that took place on these grounds, and inspire people visit this park,” said Earling.
“For the first time, the film gives a concise account of events that took place on December 25-26, 1776 in this park: From the Crossing itself, to the importance of the ferry operations that moved the Continental Army and its artillery across the Delaware River, to General Washington’s decision at the 1740 Johnson Ferry House to go ahead with the attack on Trenton, to the heroic crossing of Jacob’s Creek and march to Trenton resulting in victory,” added Tim West, WCPA vice president and project manager.
This program is made possible in part by the Mercer County Cultural and Heritage Commission through funding from the New Jersey Historical Commission and the Mercer County Board of Chosen Freeholders, as well as NJM Insurance Group, The Swan Historical Foundation, and the generous support of several individuals.
Kidder served as History Scholar for the video. Tim Stollery, a three-time Emmy Award-winning producer formerly with New Jersey Network (NJN) was Production Manager and Videographer.
WCPA’s educational video can be viewed on their website, http://www.wcpa-nj.com. It will be made available for free to community and school groups and the public.
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