The National Park Service has made a significant announcement regarding the plans for renovations at Welcome Park, a popular recreation area within Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia.
According to the agency's announcement on Monday, they have decided to no longer move forward with their proposal to permanently remove the statue of William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania, from the park. This decision comes after intense backlash from concerned citizens and politicians, and the agency has expressed that they will not be making any changes to the statue.
The initial plans for Welcome Park's restoration were met with minimal opposition, with proposed changes such as replacing deteriorated pavement, dead trees, and damaged benches. However, after discussions with indigenous representatives from surrounding areas, the park service decided to revise its design in order to provide a more inclusive and accurate representation of the Native American history of Philadelphia. This revised plan included the removal of the William Penn statue and its replacement with an expanded interpretation of the Native American history of the area.
The proposed changes also included the addition of newly planted greenery, a ceremonial gathering space with circular benches, and exhibit panels to replace the existing timeline about William Penn. These changes were intended to create a more welcoming and educational experience for visitors to the park. Despite these intentions, the agency faced severe criticism for its decision to permanently remove William Penn's statue, which sparked a heated debate on social media and in the political sphere.
In response to this backlash, the National Park Service has now officially withdrawn the review of the draft proposal and closed the public comment period. As per the agency's announcement, the preliminary draft proposal was released prematurely and had not undergone a complete internal review.
Therefore, it has now been retracted, and no changes will be made to the William Penn statue. This decision has been met with relief and gratitude from many concerned citizens and politicians, who have been advocating for the preservation of the statue in its rightful home at Welcome Park.
Pennsylvania State Rep. Martina White, a Republican, took to Facebook to express her relief and appreciation for the agency's decision. She also encouraged members of the public to submit their comments to the planning committee and have their voices heard.
Similarly, Governor Josh Shapiro, a Democrat, expressed his satisfaction with the outcome and stated that his team had been actively engaging with the Biden administration throughout the day to correct this decision. He also emphasized the historical significance of the William Penn statue and the importance of its preservation.
The proposed changes at Welcome Park have garnered a lot of attention and sparked heated debates on social media and in the political arena. Many accused the National Park Service of canceling William Penn, sparking further political divides.
However, the agency has clarified that these changes were made in response to the feedback from indigenous representatives and were intended to provide a more inclusive and accurate representation of the area's history. With the revised plans now retracted, it is unclear whether any of the proposed changes, such as the addition of greenery and exhibit panels, will still be implemented.