Thirteen US Senators and 10 US House Representatives have signed “Dear Colleague” letters endorsing new Federal investments in the National Park Service’s Washington-Rochambeau National Historic Trail, which tells the story of the 1781 march to American Independence through nine states.
This year, 240 years after the march to victory in Yorktown on October 19, 1781, members of Congress are recognizing that the trail is particularly valuable today, given that it passes through a dozen “Founding Cities” in need to economic investment and tells a multicultural story of America’s Founding.
“Few people appreciate the extent to which our achievement of American Independence relied on the support of our French allies, who represented more than half of our military strength at Yorktown, where the British General Cornwallis surrendered,” said Ellen Von Karajan, Executive Director of the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route Association (W3R). “Moreover, a large percentage of George Washington’s Continental Army were Black, Indigenous, and mixed race, a fact that needs more attention in our history books.”
The W3R Association has developed a proposal for making new investments in the trail, initially through the National Park Service, and later through infrastructure improvement to the public roads and neighborhoods the trail passes over and through.
“As the nation seeks to build back better, this trail provides an ideal opportunity to stimulate economic activity, address longstanding social inequities, and to celebrate our founding story,” said Lawrence Abell, National Chairman of W3R.
The most urban trail in the National Park Service, the Washington Rochambeau Historic Route stretches 680 miles from New England to Virginia, passing through minority-majority cities such as Providence, RI; Hartford, CT; White Plains, NY; Trenton, NJ; Philadelphia, PA; Wilmington, DE; and Baltimore, MD.
Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal led the “Dear Colleague” letter in the Senate, asking the relevant subcommittee to double current spending on the trail, and to provide $9 million in new funding for “planning, research, education, and interpretation.” The June 24, 2021, letter salutes the trail for “telling a great story of American freedom, and is well suited to promoting heritage tourism, outdoor recreation, and education in a dozen diverse ‘Founding Cities’ that have economically disadvantaged populations, often in communities located adjacent to center city or Main Street neighborhoods.”
Senators joining the letter include Senator Murphy of Connecticut; Senators Carper and Coons of Delaware; Senators Cardin and Van Hollen of Maryland; Senators Booker and Menendez of New Jersey; Senator Gillibrand of New York; Senator Casey of Pennsylvania; Senators Reed and Whitehouse of Rhode Island; and Senator Kaine of Virginia.
The letter in the House was led by Representative Jahana Hayes of Waterbury, Connecticut, a founding city on the trail where she was an American History teacher before being named the 2016 National Teacher of the Year and running for Congress. Her letter was joined by Reps. Courtney and Himes of Connecticut; Rep. Blunt Rochester of Delaware; Rep. Sarbanes of Maryland; Reps. Malinowski, Pallone, Pascrell, and Watson Coleman of New Jersey; and Representative Maloney of New York.
In addition to support from Capitol Hill, many non-profit organizations* are supporting the W3R Founding Cities plan, particularly its focus on telling the story of the diverse armies that achieved American freedom. Among the organizations supporting the effort are:
- Brandywine Village Partners (DE)
- Carpenter’s Hall of Philadelphia (PA)
- Connecticut Historical Society (CT)
- Delaware Historical Society (DE)
- East Coast Greenway Alliance (in all trail states)
- East Trenton Collaborative (NJ)
- George Washington’s Mount Vernon (VA)
- League of Historical Societies of New Jersey (NJ)
- Mattatuck Museum (CT)
- Museum of the American Revolution (PA)
- Millstone Valley Preservation Coalition (NJ)
- Stoutsburg Sourland African American Museum (NJ)
- Tomaquag Museum (RI)
- William Trent House (NJ)
- Delaware Society for the Preservation of Antiquities (DE)
The trail passes by hundreds of historic sites in nine states and the District of Columbia, providing an opportunity of tourists to retrace the steps of the men and women who achieved American independence in their march to victory. This summer and fall, major commemorative events will be held along the route. They will be posted as they are confirmed at the W3R-US website at https://w3r-us.org/events/.
*Organizations wishing to be added to this list may contact firstname.lastname@example.org.