DEC Commissioner Announces Official Opening of the $1.3 Million Maurice D. Hinchey Catskill Interpretive Center
Center to be a Gateway to the Many Recreational Experiences in the Catskills
Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens today officially opened the Maurice D. Hinchey Catskill Interpretive Center on Rt. 28 in the Town of Shandaken, Ulster County, which will serve as a gateway for visitors to Catskills Forest Preserve to learn about the vast outdoor recreation opportunities in the area as well as to discover the region's rich history and ecology. The $1.3 Million project was funded with approximately $500,000 from New York Works, $420,000 from the State's Environmental Protection Fund and a $380,000 federal Housing and Urban Development grant.
"The Catskill Forest Preserve is home to breathtaking mountains and pristine waterways that offer an abundance of recreational adventures," said Commissioner Martens. "Now, with the opening of the Catskill Interpretive Center, visitors will be welcomed to the region through a magnificent resource that showcases all the Catskills' has to offer - from hiking in serene mountain settings and fishing in legendary trout streams and reservoirs to awe-inspiring natural beauty and unique cultural attractions."
"Thanks to the cooperation and hard work of our partners and DEC staff, the dream of this Center is now a reality," continued Commissioner Martens. "The Center was made possible through the Governor's New York Works program, the Environmental Protection Fund and the HUD grant secured by Congressman Hinchey. We could not have achieved this important milestone for the Catskills without key investments being made by partners like the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development, Friends of the Catskill Visitors and New York City Department of Environmental Protection. This Center will showcase the region's vast natural resources and recreational opportunities."
The Center features a topographic floor map display with projected images from above that highlights the natural resources and other interesting assets in the region. Visitors will be able to explore the Catskill's extraordinary recreational, cultural and historic opportunities as well as a variety of tourist services through the Center's iPads and wall displays. The Center's displays, activities and staff will advance environmental education, cultural and natural resource stewardship and outdoor recreational opportunities that enhance the Catskill region and promote economic development opportunities.
Governor Cuomo has invested the State's staff and capital resources to expand access to outdoor recreational opportunities across New York to expand and improve the State's tourism industry-one of the top employers and economic generators in the state and region. The state's Environmental Protection Fund financed the acquisition of more than 2,300 acres of open space in the Catskills in recent years and more acquisitions are underway. The Governor's New York Works initiative have provided funds for accessible trails and parking areas to improve recreational opportunities for visitors and residents of the Catskills. And, in May 2015, DEC awarded $400,000 in Catskill Smart Growth grants to municipalities and non-profit organizations to enable communities to enhance their economic viability and promote the Catskills as the wonderful tourist destination that it is.
DEC will build interpretive trails at the site with NY Works funding. The site is conveniently located on State Route 28 in the Hamlet of Mt. Tremper, Town of Shandaken, Ulster County. For more information on the CIC, visit www.catskillinterpretivecenter.org.
The Friends of the Catskill Interpretive Center, working under the umbrella of the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development, will operate the 1,700-square-foot Center seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (NYCDEP) will contribute $20,000 per year for the first five years toward operating expenses of the Center.
The Center is staffed through a partnership including the Catskill Center, the NY-NJ Trail Conference, Catskill Mountain Club, Ulster County Tourism and Catskill Mountainkeeper. The Catskill Watershed Corporation contributed $40,000 for exhibits and $10,000 per year for five years toward operating expenses, and donated $38,000 for a replica observer's cabin to accompany an historic fire tower to be erected at the site.
The Center is named in honor of retired Congressman Maurice D. Hinchey, who championed the Center for decades. As a state Assemblyman, Congressman Hinchey led the charge for the Catskill Interpretive Center and secured the original funding to get the project started in the 1980s. Hinchey worked with then-Governor Mario Cuomo to obtain additional funding to advance the project, including securing property in Mount Tremper and initial site development. Congressman Hinchey most recently helped secure a $380,000 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development grant toward building the facility.
"This glorious day is the fulfillment of a 30-year dream made possible by the passion and persistence of so many dedicated people, from hard-working public officials at every level of government to devoted community groups across the region," said retired Congressman Hinchey. "The NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation and The Catskill Center for Conservation and Development have my heartfelt appreciation for bringing this marvelous center to completion. I am very honored to have it named for me, and delighted that it will introduce many thousands of people to the treasures of the Catskill Mountains."
Senator James L. Seward said, "The new Catskill Interpretive Center will help highlight all the Catskills has to offer - drawing new explorers to the region and offering area families and residents with yet another terrific resource. The center, together with other new initiatives, is part of a cohesive, locally developed strategy to boost our vibrant tourism industry, grow our small businesses, and showcase the grandeur of the Catskills for generations to come."
New York City Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Emily Lloyd said, "Congratulations to the many volunteers and advocates who worked for decades to see the Catskill Interpretive Center built. The Center will help thousands of annual visitors interpret the history of the Catskills, while also pointing them toward outdoor recreation access, farm-to-table food, local artisans and many other attractions that make the region scenic and vibrant. DEP has been a proud partner in this effort, and we will continue to work with our watershed neighbors to expand, improve and promote outdoor recreation and tourism in the Catskills."
Ulster County Executive Mike Hein said, "The Shandaken area has continued to grow and develop, and the opening of the Catskill Interpretive Center will certainly be an important additional resource for the region. Visitors from all over the country are drawn to Ulster County to witness its pristine natural beauty and take advantage of the countless outdoor activities available. This center will allow residents and visitors alike, to realize a deep and meaningful bond with the area and have a greater appreciation for our rich and diverse history. The Interpretive Center will stand as a constant reminder of Congressman Maurice Hinchey's steadfast environmental commitment and he remains a visionary, role model and mentor for us all; without his continued support, this new innovative Interpretive Center would not have become a reality."
Shandaken Town Supervisor Robert Stanley, "The Town of Shandaken, the 'Heart of the Park,' extends its gratitude to all the organizations and individuals responsible for the Maurice Hinchey Catskill Interpretive Center. We invite all visitors to our fair community as we embrace the honor of being the host community welcoming neighbors far and wide to the Catskill Mountains for generations to come."
"The Catskill Center takes great pride in the partnerships that allow us to take this step in branding the Catskills as a world-class destination," said Alan White, Executive Director, Catskill Center.
Catskill Mountainkeeper Executive Director Ramsay Adams, "The Maurice D. Hinchey Catskill Interpretive Center is a great example of how when dedicated folks share a vision and through perseverance can accomplish extraordinary things. Mountainkeeper is proud to be a partner and we look forward to working with the DEC and our partners in introducing this wonderful new facility to the millions of visitors that come to the Catskill Park."