New Jersey Town Council Slow To Stop Vandalism

Read below and find out what local Vernon New Jersey town leaders tried to do to a 9,000 year old Native American site in Vernon, New Jersey.
The site, where 10,000 Native American artifacts were found, was almost knowingly turned into ball fields.

VERNON NJ  Web Local News Dec.29 2000 to Aug.15 2001

BLACK CREEK SITE: Backhoe Dig Turns Up - Additional Artifacts

8/15/01 The Black Creek Site dig, begun Monday 8/13/01, immediately yielded Native American artifacts for the delectation of experts present at the scene.

The backhoe dig, for which the town hired geologist Phil LaPorta of Warwick NY, was scheduled to end yesterday but is now expected to end Thursday 8/16/01.

Meantime, archaeologists hired by the township confirmed the discovery of newly unearthed artifacts, stemming back to thousands of years ago, which demonstrate that there was Native American cultural activity on the site. The findings were further confirmed by Dr. Cara Blume, an archaeologist hired by the Lenni Lenape to observe the excavation.

Thousands of artifacts found at the site over the years by archaeologist and township resident Rick Patterson were on public display yesterday at Legends Hotel.

TC members await word as to whether or not their consultants, geologist Phil La Porta and archaeologist Philip Perazio, have concluded that the land is "historically significant."

The TC expects a project report from its consultants by Aug. 28, a day before the deadline for submissions to the historic register. The state's Historic Preservation Office is slated to meet on Sept. 12 to decide whether or not to place the Black Creek site, already deemed eligible by the state agency, on the register of historic places.

Some Vernon residents may recall that, for several years, a sampling of Black Creek artifacts were among the exhibits in a permanent showcase on public display in the meeting hall of the Vernon Township Municipal Building.

Scanning The Local News, 8/4/01

Maple Grange Fields

On Monday, Aug. 6, Judge Kenneth MacKenzie is expected to issue written orders in response to the town's latest motion, which concerns hiring another consultant to probe the Maple Grange (Black Creek) artifacts site.

Previously, the town was set to hire another firm, CRCG, to conduct an archaeological study. The CRCG study was expected to take place in advance of the state's scheduled September 12, 2001 meeting re: the property's historic site designation. The site has already been deemed eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.

Troubled by the judge's ruling that plaintiffs and their representatives could observe the study, and troubled by the volume of unfavorable letters received from professional colleagues and concerned members of the public, CRCG withdrew its proposal last month and informed the twp. that the study was inappropriate and would not be a financially worthwhile undertaking for the firm.

The township attorney now seeks the judge's approval for the township to hire ( $44,722.00) a Warwick NY geological firm, LaPorta & Associates, to do a geomorphological study of the site.

LaPorte proposes to excavate quantities of soil at the site, using heavy equipment (e.g. backhoe), in order to ascertain the site's dimensions and to see whether or not it is true that the Black Creek site contains some of the most important historic artifacts in the nation.

Preservationists say that town council members have disregarded, discredited or trivialized all previous findings of historic artifacts on the property, and that the TC's chief concern has been to thwart the Black Creek site's nomination for national recognition.

BTW - Vernon may be the only town in the U.S. to oppose nomination of an historic site within its borders.

Maple Grange, Cont'd ...

7/8/01 Outcomes in Superior Court on Friday July 6 :

• Judge MacKenzie ruled that the twp. can go ahead with an archaeological study of the artifacts site, work to be performed by the firm of their choice, and that all parties may observe the work but are not to interfere with it.

• The twp.'s bid to have the court deny the intervention of the Lenni Lenape in the matter was not successful.


Maple Grange Property

Superior Court outcomes this week:

The township is prohibited from conducting any activity which might interfere with or disturb the physical integrity of the Black Creek Site, i.e. the subject 35 acres of the 183- acre park property, unless and until the NJ Historical Review Bd determines that the site is not eligible for listing (Register of Historic Places), or unless and until the parties present a mutually agreeable park design (excluding the disputed 35 acres) acceptable to the court, whichever comes sooner.

Meanwhile, TC reactions this week:

The TC decided to retain an archaeological consulting firm of its own choosing to dig "test pits" on the Black Creek site, irrespective of the NJ Hist. Review Bd.'s pending resolution concerning the site's historic status.

If conducted before the state board is heard from (resolution expected in Sept.), it is not clear whether such town-ordered "test digging" on the property will please the court.

See Also: 6/27 Bergen Record article N.J. Ancestral Site May Be Built Upon, a by Record staff writer Matthew Brown .

Maple Grange Legal Saga, Continued
Last week in Superior Court:

6/18/01 In seeking an end to the injunction which prevents the township's preliminary construction work on fields at the Maple Grange property,

  • the twp attorney argued that the Nanticoke Lenni Lenape do not have standing in the matter and that the judge should have denied them the right to intervene in the proceedings. As a result, a court hearing on this point is now scheduled for July 6.
  • the twp attorney told the court that plaintiffs' allegation re: a June 6 meeting scheduled with NJ State Historic Preservation Office was intentionally fraudulent, that the meeting did not take place, and that the judge had thus relied on fraudulent statements in deciding to issue the injunction last month.
  • Relevant to the above June 6 mtg, plaintiffs entered into the court record certain copies of correspondence they received from a representative of NJ State Historic Preservation Office. The state-authored correspondence was to show the court that, in the interim following the May 23 injunction order , the scheduled June 6 HPO mtg. had been cancelled by that state office for reasons which were apparently unrelated to the instant case.

At present the injunction is still in effect.

Injunction Continues
'Stop Work' Order to Twp. Not Lifted

6/6/01 Outcome of proceedings in Superior Court today re: the twp.'s construction plans for the Maple Grange property:

  • The injunction which called a halt to grading work at the site is still in effect.
  • Judge MacKenzie ruled that the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Indians of New Jersey have standing to join the lawsuit.
  • Judge MacKenzie approved the request for intervention by attorney Gregory Werkheiser of the Washington, D.C. firm of Piper Marbury Rudnick & Wolfe, LLP, representing the plaintiffs.

Supporters of Historic Site March To Muni Bldg
6/6/01  It has been estimated that over 100 people participated in last evening's march to protest Vernon Twp.'s planned destruction of historic Native American grounds located at the twp.-owned Maple Grange park property.

Township residents joined representatives of various Native American nations on the march from Rickey farm and down Rt. 94 to Church Street, where protesters assembled peacefully at the Vernon Municipal Bldg. to hear speeches by Native American spokesmen and local historical preservationists.

A press conference, scheduled by the TC for 5:00 p.m. yesterday, was cancelled when TC members learned that the Nanticoke Lenni Lenape had joined the court action filed to prevent the twp.'s grading of the Black Creek artifacts site.

Vernon Mayor John Logan told reporters that the latest legal development was the work of the "same small group of individuals" who oppose development of Mountain Creek.

Logan further commented to the effect that the TC had tried to compromise all along, but that the TC's compromises had been rejected.

What about the VCA's design compromise for constructing ballfields in a way which would spare the artifacts fields?
What about the Vernon Bd. of Ed.'s compromise offer of 50 acres of free property suitable for ballfields?

Native Americans To March In Defense of Ancestral Grounds

6/4/01 Representatives of Native American nations, who have been foregathering since Sunday (6/3/01) at the Rickey farm on Rt. 94 in central Vernon, said they will set out on a 2 mile march from the farm to the Maple Grange property tomorrow at about 6:00 p.m. The march is to protest the desecration inherent in the town's plans to build ballfields atop the 23 acres which have been shown to contain Native American artifacts and possibly human remains.

At a Town Council meeting last Thursday (5/31/01) the Vernon Civic Association presented a park design which would spare the archaeological site, and further meetings relative to that proposal are reportedly imminent.

Meanwhile, Vernon Mayor John Logan has said that grading work on the subject 23 acres of the 180-acre property might well continue unless a pending application for the site's national historic status is scratched. Town officials believe that the site's registration as an Historic Place it will result in unwanted DEP etc. permitting requirements bearing upon future development of the town-owned property.

The quid pro quo proposition was presented by the TC to the Vernon Civic Association, apparently in the belief that they were the applicants.

Field archaeologist and Vernon resident Rick Patterson, who filed the application with the appropriate U.S. agencies and who is not a member of the Vernon Civic Association, said he would absolutely not withdraw the bid for the site's national historic designation.

Native Americans and local supporters of the site's preservation have said that, in their view, the TC-ordered bulldozing of the site on May 23 was deliberately calculated to trash the site's archaeological integrity.

Gregory Werkheiser, an attorney with the firm of Piper,Marbury,Rudnick & Wolfe, represents the Nanticoke Lenni Lenape nation, who intend to sue the twp. if the artifact land is not spared from the park-construction bulldozers.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, June 6, there will be a hearing in Superior Court concerning an extension of the injunction ordered on May 21 by Judge MacKenzie, at which time the twp. is to explain how grading the fields will not cause irreparable harm to the remains of what was, in the opinion of consulting archaeologists, a one-of-a-kind Native American settlement.

The May 23 injunction called a halt to township-ordered levelling of the site on that date. It was subsequently found that twp. machinery had dug a 215- ft. long, 16-ft wide swath through the portion of the property which contains artifacts spanning 10,000 years of Native American habitation.

News photographers who subsequently lensed the site were issued summonses by VTPD for being in a closed park. The summonses are answerable on June 12 in Vernon's municipal court.

VCA's Park Designs Presented
Alternative Plan Would Build Ballfields, Preserve Native American Portion of Land
TC: Only If You Put A Stop To National Recognition of Historic Site

6/1/01  At last night's TC meeting, the Vernon Civic Association presented alternative designs for the 180-acre town park.
About a month ago, reacting to dissent from local historians and Native American activists re: building ballfields by destroying a well-known historical site, the TC agreed to entertain a compromise proposal from the VCA.
At last night's meeting, VTPD officers stood watch as an often contentious audience packed the Municipal Bldg. to hear the VCA's proposal.

The VCA's designs showed where ballfield construction could take place without disturbing the 23 acres containing Native American artifacts. After hearing it, Deputy Mayor Janet Morrison reportedly said that she was impressed and that the VCA plans were "a terrific and genuine effort to resolve this," but that if trust was not established between the factions for & against the park project she would be conservative when considering her vote.

Vernon Mayor John Logan said that, provided the twp. engineer approves of the designs, implementation of the VCA's design might be possible - but only if the application for the 23-acre site's listing as a nationally registered historic site is snuffed.
Otherwise, the town will probably plow ahead with its original plan to construct ballfields on the artifact-loaded portion of the property.

VCA president Chris Fuehrer said his organization had no authority to snuff an application it did not make.

Field archaeologist Rick Patterson is the township resident who filed an application with the U.S. Dept. of the Interior, nominating the 23 acres for listing in the NJ Register of Historic Places and the National Register of Historic Places. The Vernon site has been found to contain mass quantities of Native American artifacts (and possibly human remains) spanning an estimated 10,000 years.

Patterson said he is "absolutely not" going to withdraw the site's nomination for national recognition.

On May 23, the court ordered the twp. to stop work on the controversial property. On June 6 the twp. is ordered to show Superior Court Judge MacKenzie why the levelling of the 23-acre tract won't irreparably trash the archaeological evidence of what may be one of the oldest Native American habitations ever discovered.

According to a 5/31 article in The Advertiser-News,Mayor John Logan said that the twp. had purposely sent out the bulldozers to the artifacts fields in expectation of legal action. Logan also reiterated the TC's commitment to "put ballfields on this site."

Native American Reps: TC Spoke With Forked Tongue

Representatives of Native American nations who were present at the 5/31 TC meeting made comments to the effect that, in light of earlier TC meetings concerning the park plan, the TC's actions had been deceitful and treacherous. They pointed out the township's deliberate bulldozing of the artifacts grounds before an alternative park design could be presented.
It was also suggested that, if remains of Lenni Lenape inhabitants are disturbed, a federal human rights issue might be in prospect.

See also: Jacobus column, published May 21 of last year, The Black Creek Site

Vernon To The Working Press: Keep Away From The Scene
News fotogs/reporters, lensing controversial park site, ticketed by VTPD

5/30/01 Advertiser-News reporter/fotog Pat Mindos and NJ Herald fotog Anna Murphy were issued summonses today at the Artifacts/ballfield site for violating a township ordinance re: park closure.

Before Vernon police arrived to cite them for the aforementioned infraction, the reporters were at the property photographing the condition of the artifacts fields (i.e. the aftermath of town-ordered bulldozing on May 23, halted the same day by a court-ordered injunction).

Field archaeologist Rick Patterson, who accompanied the newsies to the controversial town-owned property, was also issued a summons.

Your Tax Dollars At Work.

Town To Hear VCA Plan For Maple Grange Park At May 31 TC Meeting

The Maple Grange Park is on the agenda for the TC's 6:00 p.m. work session at the Municipal Bldg. on Thursday 5/31, and it is anticipated that the alternate proposal developed by the Vernon Civic Association will be heard at the TC's regular 8:00 p.m session at the Municipal Bldg. that same night.

As these things are subject to change at times, interested members of the public might do well to call the Town Clerk's office at the Municipal Bldg (764-4055) for the most timely schedule and agenda information.

Judge Orders Halt To Grading Of Artifacts Fields
Cites "Irreparable Harm" To Historic Site

5/23/01 At 12:45 p.m. today in NJ Superior Court at Morristown, Judge Kenneth McKenzie granted Vernon resident Rick Patterson an injunction to stop township bulldozers from levelling the archaeological site on the Maple Grange property.

Patterson, whose archaeological findings at the site are by now a matter of public notice, filed for the injunction yesterday when it was learned that grading of the Native American artifacts site was underway.

In granting the emergency injunctive relief, Judge McKenzie noted that consideration of the town's equipment rental cost (town's argument) was outweighed by the cost of "irreparable harm" which would result if construction were allowed to continue at the historic site .

The TC was told to review the VCA plan as scheduled on May 31, at which time, said Judge McKenzie, it was hoped that the TC would not "act with malice" in retaliation for the injunction, further adding that he hoped an agreement could be reached and that the complaint would thereafter be a moot point.
Patterson has a week after May 31 to file additional motions with the court for an extended injunction.

Our thanks to the VWeb Newsbeaks who contributed to the above report

See Also: (VScope) Stranger Than Fiction, eerily coincidental Artifacts stuff - for the delectation of VWebsters everywhere...

Grading of Maple Grange Fields Begins

5/22/01 Heavy machinery rolled out today on the town's Maple Grange property, an event which began the TC-authorized "preparatory work" of grading the land for playing fields at the future town park.

The land, or part of the land, undergoing "preparatory work" is on the 23 acres where Native American artifacts have been found.

Grading of the field in question was authorized by the TC (3-2 vote, J.Kilby and F. Vince dissenting)earlier this spring. The Vernon Civic Association was granted until June 1 to submit a compromise proposal which might spare the artifacts site.

It has been generally estimated that construction of the park will take about 15 years.

On May 14 it was the decision of the TC members (4-1, J. Kilby dissenting) to order up the initial "preparatory work" for the fields without further delay.

Critics of the TC-ordered move said it pulled the rug out from under the VCA's soon-to-be-proposed compromise regarding the artifacts site.

VWeb Newsbeaks Say:
Grading of the artifacts grounds will provoke legal reactions - injunctions on the way? - stay tuned

Burial Grounds And Ballfields - Town Park Compromise?
School Property Offer Eyed - Meantime, TC Decides To Change Rec Field Layout

4/6/01  Development of the 180-acre, $1.1 million Maple Grange property purchased by the town for recreational parkland, specifically the 23 acres identified as the site of ancient Native American artifacts, continues to be a bone of contention between historic preservationists and ballfield construction advocates.

This week's events re: the park issue :

  • On Tuesday, the Vernon school board offered Vernon township the use of 50 acres adjacent to Lounsberry Hollow School, located in the center of town, for construction of town ballfields. In offering the compromise, Vschools Superintendent Anthony Macerino was quoted as saying "We have said all along that we would work with anyone who would want to develop recreational fields there. There is enough room for two schools to be built on the property." The TC's attorney, Joseph Ragno, said that the town should explore all its options but that it would take some time to negotiate an agreement with the school board.

  • At last night's meeting, the TC decided to eliminate a portion of the coveted 23 acre tract from development plans for the town-owned parcel, a compromise to preserve part of the "area of concern" (artifact-dense grounds) for posterity. Historic preservationists and representatives of Native American organizations found the compromise untenable, and argued that the entire 23 acre section should be held safe from the bulldozers.

  • Also at last night's meeting, the TC voted 3 - 2 to approve a resolution authorizing the twp. to do preliminary site work on the town-owned parcel. Mayor John Logan said that such work might involve grading of the land by twp. employees. Councilman Jim Kilby and Councilwoman Francine Vince cast the dissenting votes.

Meanwhile, at last night's meeting the TC introduced an ordinance to change the town park property from a light industrial to a recreational zone.
On April 23 there will be a public hearing on the re-zoning ordinance.

Park Plan Meeting Well Attended!
Recreational Field Supporters, Historical Site Supporters Vie For Consideration

3/27/01 An audience of 80 -100 people attended the TC work session to hear a presentation of conceptual designs for the town park last night.

Architect Scott Taylor of Melillo& Bauer Associates presented the Municipal Bldg. assembly with plans for picnic areas, football and baseball and soccer and lacrosse fileds, a hockey complex, a pool, community center, bandshell or ampitheatre, historic/cultural exhibits, connecting trails, etc. etc. proposed for future construction on the 180 acre property purchased by the town last year.

It appears that all but 70 acres of the parcel are completely unsuitable for use as recreational fields, and the 70 usable acres contain a significant trove of Indian and Early American artifacts.

At last night's meeting, residents strongly urging the construction of the long-awaited recreational fields and facilities mingled with residents, archaeologists and historians urging the preservation of the long-documented, state-registered archaeological site.

In short, both groups want dibs on roughly the same acreage.

The town's Historic Preservation Commission is expected to suggest how the artifact-dense portions of the land should be treated, and TC discussion of the parkland design will resume on April 9 at the Municipal Bldg.


Vernon Town Park Designs To Make Their Public Debut On Monday

3/22/01 Anticipation mounts re: the architectural designs for the town park, which is to be built (over the next 15 years) on the Maple Grange Rd. site purchased by the town last year.

The designs are to be presented on March 26 at the TC work session meeting, 6:00 p.m., at the Vernon Municipal Building .

Because a portion of the to-be-developed parkland is apparently chock-a-block with Native American artifacts, the design presentation has revived the static between the TC and local history preservationists.


Court Rejects TC's Bid To Gag Patterson & Maple Grange Plaintiffs

8/29/02 Recently the (Vernon Town Council) TC asked Judge MacKenzie to impose a gag order on all the plaintiffs in the Maple Grange case, and to find Rick Patterson in contempt of the court's June 4, 2002 order permitting the town to develop the "non-historic" 140 acres of the 180-acre Maple Grange property.
The town's motion was denied.

Patterson drew fire from the TC last month when he notified the media & gov't agencies about what was discovered at Maple Grange during a group look-see conducted by the town's Environmental Committee.
What the group reportedly saw was bulldozing, land-clearing, and dozens of cut-down trees on 13 acres of the tract, construction projects for which the town did not have proper permits and federal approvals.
The TC took it ill that Patterson informed the gov't and the news media of these developments, and also complained that Patterson had no business observing the conditions of any acreage but the historic preservation area last month, and should have absented himself immediately after accompanying the group to its tour destination.

In July the TC filed a motion to have Patterson held in contempt of court and to bar him and the LenniLenape from "interfering" with the TC's construction plans for rec fields and a cell tower on the rest of the Maple Grange property. Evidently the TC felt that Paterson's public criticism of the twp.'s development plans had somehow violated the judge's order allowing the twp. to develop its non-historic acreage.

On August 27, the judge ruled against the TC, saying that Patterson did not violate the court's order by telling the media and the government about what the town was doing on the rest of the Maple Grange property.
MacKenzie's ruling also thwarted the TC's bid to silence the plaintiffs' free speech ["interference"] regarding Vernon Township's plans for building a cell tower, rec fields, etc. on the land.

The TC is also appealing to the state to overturn NJDEP Commissioner Bradley Campbell's designation of 40 acres (Black Creek site) of the Maple Grange property as an historic site, now included on the state register of historic places.

Black Creek Site: TC's Last Stand, Again…
Reacting to the Vernon TC's "construction contract awarded " maneuver, timed to predate a state action affecting the TC's development plans for Maple Grange Park, NJDEP Commissioner Bradley Campbell invoked his authority as the state's historical preservation officer - and immediately placed 40 acres of Maple Grange turf under NJDEP protection.

4/3/02  On Monday, April 1, two days before the state's Wednesday, April 3 hearing re: the final designation of the Black Creek/Maple Grange historical site boundaries, the Vernon TC awarded a contract ($1.3 million )for construction at Maple Grange.
The contract was awarded to lowest bidder Rochelle Contracting Co. of Landing, NJ at a special TC meeting held Monday night. Public notices of the meeting were published last week.
NJDEP Commissioner Bradley Campbell, well aware of the twp.'s recent solicitation of contractor bids for the Maple Grange job, and aware of the TC's special meeting, personally phoned Vernon twp. officials on Monday to suggest that the twp. wait for the results of the April 3 hearing in Trenton before entering into a construction contract to build anything on the subject property.
Evidently the TC blew him off, whereupon Campbell sent Vernon Twp. an official, signed-and-time-dated letter notifying them that the Vernon TC's continuing efforts to undermine the processes of NJ state historic preservation had caused him to exercise his authority as the State Historic Preservation Officer in New Jersey.
Campbell's letter went on to inform the TC that he had personally reviewed the Black Creek site nomination, and had designated 40 acres of the Maple Grange property historic and worthy of preservation.
[Based on aerial photos showing the exact boundaries of the site, which contains artifacts dating as far back as 8,000 years, Wednesday's state hearing would most likely have resulted in historic designation of those 40 acres anyway.]
As to the April 1 construction contract award, Campbell noted the township's attempts "to create circumstances it believes would exempt future encroachment on the site from review by the DEP."
He later said that he would have preferred to go through the scheduled review process, but had taken action as the state historic preservation officer because he didn't want to put the site at risk.
Yesterday, twp. attorney Joseph Ragno responded to Campbell with a letter claiming that Campbell's actions circumvented due process of the state historic preservation review scheduled for April 3.
The TC is now considering a courthouse battle against the Black Creek site's historic designation.



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What would you think about building ball fields over ancient Egypt, Greece or Rome ruins...
Ancient History
The Great Pyramid in Egypt built by Cheops was built 4,490 years ago.
Athens Founded  3,235 years ago.
Solomon builds temple in Jerusalem  3,017 years ago
First Olympic Games held in Greece  2,776 years ago
Rome Founded  2,753 years ago
Roman Republic Founded  2,510 years ago
Construction on the Parthenon begins  2,446 years ago
Trial and Death of Socrates  2,399 years ago
Plato dies  2,347 years ago
Aristotle tutors Alexander the Great  2,343 years ago
Gaius Julius Caeser dies  2,044 years ago 
 Jesus born   2,004 years ago
Nine thousand (9,000) years ago (Over 4,000 years, before the building of the Great Pyramid in Egypt), early Native Americans lived in the MAPLE GRANGE area of VERNON,  SUSSEX COUNTY,  NEW JERSEY.
Native American sites dating back 11,000 years have been found in  the DELAWARE WATER GAP area.
Find out what local town leaders tried to do to a 9,000 year old Native American site in Vernon, New Jersey.
The site, where 10,000 Native American artifacts were found, was almost knowingly turned into ball fields.


Learn what Karen Ann Quinlan's parents did in her name.   Maybe, something similar could happen in Terri Schindler's name.   (Or you can donate in Terri Schindler's name directly to the Karen Ann Quinlan Hospice.)
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