Status: Progress Made
04/2008: A preservation consulting firm has been hired to create a preservation plan for the Village. DEP will partner with the Canal Society (as in 2007) for a series of Saturday openings and is also accepting a limited number of applications for summer events. For more details, please visit http://www.nj.gov/dep/parksandforests/parks/waterloo-publicmeeting.htm
8/2010: The buildings of Waterloo Village remains closed to the public, although the Village is open for exploration on foot. A limited number of special events continue to take place at Waterloo annually. In January 2009, NJ DEP announced the solicitation of input from qualified facility and event managers to explore viable business opportunities that could support the future operations and marketing of Waterloo Village. To date, no further information has been announced.
Waterloo Village, scenically located along the Musconetcong River, comprises a group of nineteenth century buildings – houses, a church, a store, and a stone grist mill – as well as a water-filled length of the Morris Canal, and a lock, dam, and inclined plane, elements that enabled boats to change elevations within the canal. Most of the village lies in the Allamuchy Mountain State Park and for more than 40 years the state leased the site to the Waterloo Foundation for the Arts, which operated the village as a museum that interpreted life in a Morris Canal village and ran a performing arts center and venue for craft and antique fairs.
In December 2006 New Jersey canceled the Foundation’s lease because it had been running large deficits, and the quality of its historical programming and stewardship of the resources had suffered. The village currently stands vacant. Its historic buildings and irreplaceable canal resources are deteriorating and vulnerable to vandalism; and thus far the state has not proposed a management scheme for the site.
It will be expensive to revive Waterloo Village and serious issues must be faced before it can again be visited by upwards of 100,000 New Jersey school children each year. But there is a larger problem clouding Waterloo’s future. New Jersey currently has no policy on the leasing of state-owned land or resources. Until recently, nonprofit organizations usually known as “friends groups” could lease historical resources such as Waterloo Village and operate them for the public benefit while providing security to the property and management of the cultural resources. But New Jersey has neither been assuming the management of these historic sites nor renewing leases when they expire No one in the current administration has come forward to define the policy on long-term stewardship of state-owned resources.
PNJ recognizes that leases may not be the only answer, though they can provide a source of income for the maintenance and management of state owned historic sites. But by discouraging leasing without proposing an alternative, the state is jeopardizing the future of many important historical and cultural resources.
Some positive changes are happening at the Waterloo Village. Structural repairs are underway at two buildings another six are in design with three more buildings being evaluated. Phase I of the Indian Village repair & reconstruction is under contract. Specifications are being drawn up for a historic study and modified preservation plan. To date, $450,000 in capital funds has been committed.
Brian Morell, President, Canal Society of NJ
Sally Lane, Dept. of Environmental Protection