The Daniel Boone Homestead's hiking trails, picnic groves, group camping facilities and historic buildings make the state historic site a valuable educational and recreational resource.

Site of the legendary pioneer's birth in 1734, the park is owned and operated by the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission. The compound includes an 18th-century house, barn and sawmill on 577 acres in Exeter Township.

"We want to make sure we are making the most of this asset," said Laurie Getz, assistant township manager and director of communications and community engagement.

To help accomplish that goal, the township partnered with the commission to develop a master plan for the park at 400 Daniel Boone Road, she said.

Exeter is seeking public input, she said, and there is still time for township residents to complete a survey on the township's website that will help in developing the plan. 

The grant-funded planning project has a budget of about $100,000.

Simone Collins Landscape Architecture of Norristown, Montgomery County, with Applied Ecological Services of Lockport, Ill., and Patterhn Ives of West Chester, Chester County, an architectural firm specializing in historic preservation, have been contracted to complete the plan.

The team will examine and evaluate the natural resources and manmade infrastructure, and engage the public in making recommendations for facility improvements.

"The goal really is to figure out ways to promote and preserve the historic core there and the rest of the site, including woodlands and wetlands," Getz said. "We are talking passive recreation here, such as expanding and connecting trail systems. We are not talking about a ballfield."

Operated as a state historic site since 1938, the homestead was one of 11 such sites identified for possible closure in 2009.

Though the grounds remained open to the public, the buildings were closed on Dec. 1 of that year. Events ceased with the exception of special tours and events held through the efforts of the Friends of the Daniel Boone Homestead, a nonprofit volunteer organization.

The Friends managed the site in partnership with the state until late 2019 when the commission chose to take a more active role, with a focus on customer service, visitor experience, inclusion and access.

Several major projects underway or completed include improving roadways, bridges and restrooms and dismantling an aging on-site sewage treatment plant.

Some of the work is part of a separate two-year initiative to help Pennsylvania museums foster diversity, equity, inclusion and access.

The initiative is funded through a National Leadership Grant of $163,498 from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to PA Museums, a statewide association serving museum professionals and institutions.

"We are finishing up a project at the moment to make the restrooms meet current ADA code,” Howard M. Pollman, director of external affairs for the commission, said in an email, noting other improvements are underway. "We have just had a new ADA compliant visitor center desk built, as the previous one did not meet current code."

Last month, commission staff visited the site with consultants from the Center for Independent Living, Abilities in Motion, a trails expert from Simone Collins and a member of the master plan team.

The group looked at the parks' features and amenities, including the entrances, specifically in reference to a complaint received about access at a secondary gate and changing grades of recreational pathways around the site, Pollman said.

"Daniel Boone park administration has discriminated against handicapped, disabled and senior citizens by lowering the gate at the secondary entrance so that wheelchairs and walkers cannot go under and removing the pedestrian walkway around the gate at the only negotiable entrance to the park for wheelchairs and walkers," Exeter resident David Applegate wrote in an email to the Reading Eagle.

Applegate also said the main entrance has steep hills that are difficult for those with wheelchairs and walkers.

Pollman said those at the site visit agreed regular access should not be provided or improved at the secondary gate, due to the nature of the roadway and lack of parking there.

"There is no easy way to add safe parking or provide safe egress due to the line of sight from this gate," Pollman said.

Designed as an alternate entrance/exit to be used during special events, the gate was used for primary access temporarily while improvements were made to the main gate.

An hours-of-operation sign posted during that time will be removed, he said. It will be replaced by a new sign, indicating the gate is to be used only during special events and directing visitors to the main entrance.

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