Update on Progress of .The Catskill Interpretive Center

March 1, 2014
Dear member of the Catskill community,
The private/public partnership led by The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, The Catskill Center for Conservation and Development, and The Friends of The Catskill Interpretive Center is making progress in the construction of The Maurice D. Hinchey Catskill Interpretive Center in Mount Tremper, in the town of Shandaken. A Kiosk with 16  panels of information about the Catskills has already been erected at the site, by Route 28.

At this time, The New York Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) is well advanced in the development of plans for the facility that will house the Interpretive Center; funding needed for this facility has been committed from the Environmental Protection fund and from a Federal HUD Appropriation. It is expected that these plans will be put out to bid for construction in the early summer of 2014, and construction completed in the early fall of 2014.

The partnership has also secured additional funding from the State of New York and from the Department of Environmental Protection of the City of New York for the operation of that facility that will house the Interpretive Center, and is presently pursuing other sources of funds for furnishings and computer equipment for the facility and for the development of its surrounding area.

On April 12, 2014, a group of Catskill organizations are sponsoring a Catskill Gateway Gala at the Ashokan Center to honor Maurice D. Hinchey and to raise funds for The Catskill Interpretive Center. Please do note the invitation on this site to this event, to which I cordially invite you. The link to The Catskill Center site will allow interested individuals to make reservations for participation in this gala.

I am most pleased to report of the great progress being made in the pursuit of our goal to bring into reality the Maurice D. Hinchey Catskill Interpretive Center, and deeply grateful to many individuals and organizations within the Catskills that are contributing to our endeavor.

Cordially yours,
Jim Infante
On behalf of The Partnership


November 9, 2012

Dear member of the Catskill community,
The private/public Partnership led by The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, The Catskill Center for Conservation and Development, and The Friends of The Catskill Interpretive Center is making progress in the construction of The Maurice Hinchey Catskill Interpretive Center in Mount Tremper, in the town of Shandaken. A Kiosk with 16 panels of information about the Catskills has already been erected at the site, by Route 28.

As part of the planning for the construction of a facility, the Partnership has engaged a student class of the Architecture Department of SUNY/Delhi to produce siting and conceptual plans for a building for the Interpretive Center. The students plan to make two presentations to the public of architectural drawings illustrating eight concepts of the planned facility. The Partnership has arranged for these two presentations to take place at the Shandaken Town Hall (on Route 28) on Wednesday, November 28 from 3:00 to 6:00 PM, and on Friday, December 14 from 3:00 to 6:00 PM. The November 28 presentation is for the purpose of soliciting comments and suggestions from interested members of the Catskill community about the then tentative plans for the facility; these suggestions will be then taken into consideration by the student designers who will then, at the December 14 meeting, present the final designs they propose. These eight proposals will provide the conceptual foundations for the final detail design of the facility to house The Maurice Hinchey Catskill Interpretive Center.

On behalf of the Partnership, I wish to extend a cordial invitation to you, and through you to any interested member of the Catskill community, to attend either one or both of these meetings and to actively make comments and suggestions regarding the details of the student proposals and designs. The Partnership, and the Catskill community, is most grateful for the enthusiastic work of these students and for the great and generous support provided to this project by the SUNY/Delhi faculty and administration.

I look forward to see you at these meetings.
Cordially yours,
Jim Infante
On behalf of The Partnership


Some Thoughts
Underpinning the Further Development of
The Maurice Hinchey Catskill Interpretive Center

E. F. Jim Infante*
PO Box 216, Phoenicia, NY 12464
845-688-5205
EttoreInfante@aol.com

I. THE CATSKILL REGION: UNDERUTILIZED RESOURCES
The project, to build and operate The Maurice Hinchey Catskill Interpretive Center, is centrally based on the fact, documented by numerous studies**, that the Catskill Park and Forest Preserve, and the surrounding Catskill region, is badly underutilized given its natural, cultural and tourist assets.

The Catskill region is very rich in recreational and cultural resources. The region is given the credit, in the 1830’s, with the invention of tourism in the United States. Throughout the nineteen century and the first part of the twentieth, the region was the preferred tourist destination for urban dwellers from the great cities of the East Coast; but the automobile, the airplane, and air-conditioning, as well as changes in taste, had a negative effect on tourism in the Catskills. Nevertheless, it is puzzling that the Catskill region does not do as well in attracting tourists as the Poconos, the Shawangunks, the Berkshires and the Adirondacks given its location, and the quality of its natural and cultural assets.

The Region is preeminent in its water resources, with the magnificently beautiful reservoirs that provide most of the water for the City of New York. The Catskill Park (705,000 acres) and Forest Preserve (287,000 acres of forever wild land), and the lands around the reservoirs owned by the City (159,000 acres, and growing rapidly), with their vast natural expanses and numerous and well maintained trails provide hiking, skiing, hunting and fishing. The vistas are unsurpassed; the un-built and built environment is unique within New York State. The region is also rich in cultural resources, with numerous galleries, museums, art studios, theatres and farmers markets. There are numerous concerts and theatrical activities during the summer season, and wonderful skiing in the winter. And there is appropriate (if not always up-to-date) lodging and restaurants. A list of some of these assets accessible along Route 28 has been recently catalogued.***

As noted in recent studies (notably the Delaware County Community Tourism Assessment, 2008) the Catskill mountains, public lands, waterways and other natural resources, as well as private tourism attractions of the region are underutilized. Although it is acknowledged that the level of tourism is significantly below the desired level, this activity is a most important component of the region’s
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*Although the ideas expressed here are the responsibility of the author, he has greatly benefited from extensive discussions with S. S. Chase, Helen Chase, Joseph Munster, Kathy Nolan and Alan White.
**See, for example, “Revitalizing the Esopus/Delaware Region of the Central Catskills,” New York State Department of State, Draft, May 2012. This study reviews 51 previous studies, conducted over the past 20 years, of the assets and constraints for economic revitalization of the area, as well as providing an up to date profile and analysis of the Region, and recommendations for actions and strategies.
***See, “Catskill Mountains Scenic Byway,” A Proposal, September 2011, available at htpp://www.shandaken.us/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Catskill-Mountains-Scenic-Byway-CMP-Draft.pdf.
economy. In **it is estimated, as a result of a survey of business owners in a portion of the Central Catskills, that on average, 36% of annual revenues are derived from tourist/visitors, 32% from year-round residents and 32% from seasonal or part-time residents (second home owners). According to a study by Tourism Economics of 2009, visitors to the Catskill region (defined as the counties of Delaware, Greene, Sullivan and Ulster, a much larger area than the Catskill Park and its immediate area in the Central Catskills) spent a total of $1 billion in 2008; of this amount, 34% for lodging, 24% for expenses related to second homes, 19% on retail purchases and gasoline, and 16% on food and beverages at restaurants. Tourism is clearly one of the important economic drivers of the region, indeed perhaps the most important one, especially to the sparsely populated areas of the Catskills around the Catskill Park, Forest Preserve, and New York City West of the Hudson watershed.

The above figures leads to the conjecture that a 10% increase in tourists (or an additional 75,000) to the Catskill Park and its immediate area would lead to an impact of an extra $18 million to the economy of the Region; or, approximately, to the creation of some 600 jobs, a very significant impact on a community whose total population is approximately 25,000 (the area of the proposed Route 28 Scenic Byway). Beyond the economic impact, the better utilization, through increased tourism, of the natural resources of the Catskills region would lead to a better validation of the great investments that the State, the City of New York and many private entities have made in the purchase and preservation of these lands, and of the access to them for the enjoyment of all citizens.

A major cause for the underutilization of the Catskills centers on the lack of appropriate marketing and on the scarcity of easily available information about the assets of the region. The interviews with local business owners quoted in ** put a great deal of emphasis on this issue: “…We need a more cohesive brand identity of the Catskills. Even the name Catskills, to many travelers, is more associated with an abandoned period of time…We certainly could use a comprehensive business guide and a map of the area…Online marketing would be helpful…Trying to find a website with good directions to the trails: good luck….need to get towns to market together to direct people to travel from town to town…Need maps of trails, information about hotels, scenic overlooks, pubs, cafes, and cool historic sites…” The author of this paper, a local resident of the area, decided to play tourist one weekend; he sought to seek information about places and events he well knew existed and were taking place at the time by asking at local restaurants, cafes and bed and breakfast locales. The results were most disappointing, indeed discouraging, leading to the conclusion that “word of mouth” is an ineffective form of information dissemination and that a more purposeful, coherent means of informing a tourist is needed if the many assets of the area are to be appropriately utilized.

The project to build and operate The Maurice Hinchey Catskill Interpretive Center principally aims to address the above stated problem through the provision of coherent information about the many assets of the area. It is expected that such a Center, with its emphasis on modern Information Technology, would become a significant test bed for appropriate marketing and for the dissemination of information badly needed by tourists, second-home owners, and even local residents. Successful implementation will lead to an increase in volume of tourists and will stimulate, over time, the development of newer tourist facilities.

II. A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE PROJECT
In the middle 1980s a grassroots effort including numerous community members, local business leaders, political representatives, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), and The Catskill Center for Conservation and Development (CCCD) led to the development of the idea and concepts for a Catskill Interpretive Center. Maurice Hinchey, then a member of the New York State Assembly, was the leader of this effort. Plans for such a center were advanced in the 1990s by the NYSDEC, with extensive consultation by advisory boards drawn from the Catskill region community. A 62-acre parcel of land on Route 28 in Mount Tremper, within the town of Shandaken in Ulster County, was chosen as the site of this center. This parcel was acquired by the CCCD and the Trust for Public Land, and leased to the NYSDEC who at present continues to manage the property; the State spent over $1 million on road, bridge, site grading, and other improvements to the property. Architectural and landscaping blueprints were drawn up for a 18,600 square foot building and for surrounding grounds, and detailed plans were created for interpretive exhibits and educational programs to be manned by NYSDEC, travel information resources, a reference library, auditorium, gift shop, and hiking trails and connections to nearby State land. The impetus for the creation of the center came to a halt in the middle 1990s with a change in the political leadership of the State of New York and of its priorities for the Catskills. Center stage and urgency were given to the extended negotiations that led to the New York City Watershed Memorandum of Agreement, a compact among the City, the State, and the communities of the Catskills that provide water to the City. This successful compact has been in place for over fifteen years.

As the new century dawned, the need for an interpretive or visitor center for the Catskills remained. A new effort, spearheaded by The Friends of The Catskill Interpretive Center (FCIC) sought to revive the project. During the past decade, the goal of The Friends of The Catskill Interpretive Center was to organize a process that would lead the State of New York to build and then operate The Catskill Interpretive Center on the basis of an update and appropriate modifications of the plans originally formulated a decade ago by NYSDEC with the advice of community members, and at the originally planned site. As a result of their activities, the Friends obtained endorsement of the project to build a Catskill Interpretive Center from the Towns of Olive, Shandaken and Woodstock, and from the Ulster County Legislature; they also secured endorsements from a number of non-profit environmental organizations and local Chambers of Commerce. The Friends raised some private funds; most major donors wanted a State commitment before pledging serious sums. Finally, The Friends succeeded in helping to secure a State of New York appropriation of $1million in the 2008 Budget for The Catskill Interpretive Center. The Friends, in 2010, further secured, through the good offices of Congressman Maurice Hinchey, a Federal appropriation of $380,000 through the HUD budget for this project. The Friends turned this appropriation over to NYSDEC, where it is available through the year 2016. The unfortunate fiscal situation of the State of New York in 2009 led to a rescission of the $1million appropriation.

The Friends, in 2010, regretfully came to the conclusion that their hopes, and plans, for a Catskill Interpretive Center built and operated by NYDEC, and funded predominantly with appropriations of the State of New York with secondary partnership with others were not going to be realized. The world had changed, and the economics of the State would not return to its previous condition.A new strategy, less dependent on State funds, was called for to bring to realization the building and operation of a Catskill Interpretive Center, still badly needed in the region for environmental, cultural, and now, more than ever, for economic needs.

III. A NEW STRATEGY FOR THE CATSKILL INTERPRETIVE CENTER
The history related in the previous section, and the new fiscal circumstances of the State of New York led The Friends to settle on a new strategy, and some altered plans, for this project. Seven issues were considered central in the new strategic thinking:

• The State of New York will not, in the future, play the leading role that had been envisioned earlier; but it will still need to be a full participant in a public/private partnership which is now envisioned as having an enlarged “private” component.
• Whereas the original plans of the Catskill Interpretive Center were based on the provision of information about the natural and cultural assets of the Catskill Park, Forest Preserve and of the Catskill region, with only secondary emphasis on its impact on tourism in the region, the new strategy will place more emphasis on endeavors that would stimulate tourism with a goal to facilitate a significant increase in the number of visitors and second-home owners to the region. The Center, in this new view, is more of a gateway to the region and to its private and public amenities and events. This gateway concept blends this “tourist aspect” with the cultural and environmental one, its “interpretive” aspect, which is retained. It is expected to significantly contribute to a more forceful “branding” of the region and on the provision of the full range of information needed by visitors to make the region more user-friendly.
• The original 1980 plans for the Catskill Interpretive Center were centered on a building of significance, on the use of physical displays, and on physical facilities. The new strategy will be based on much more modest physical structures, and on the aggressive use of modern Information Technology for the dissemination of information, irrespective of this information being of historical, cultural, environmental, or of commercial nature. There is a significant opportunity to effectively utilize the Internet to increase awareness of cultural and recreational opportunities, and to provide visitors with information on accommodation facilities and eating establishments. In the last decade, tourism and travel have been irrevocably changed by the Internet age; unfortunately the Central Catskills have severely neglected this arena. Many tourists rely on smart phones, download “apps” for their devices to learn about destinations, book accommodations, and locate restaurants and hotels. A goal of The Catskill Interpretive Center is to develop and operate a rich web site accessible for this purpose, to overcome the present poverty, and lack of appropriate organization, of information available on line.
• Although modest, a new facility must meet the highest standards as a “green” building. The materials used should be predominantly local materials that should remind the visitor of the Catskills. Finally, the facility should be a most welcoming one to the visitor.
• At least initially, for the effort to be manageable, the data base of information on the cultural, historical, natural, and commercial amenities of the region will be limited to the Catskill Park, the West-of-the-Hudson New York City Watershed, and to Delaware County, with an emphasis on the Catskill Park and Forest preserve. Once this data base is developed, an expansion of the geographical region to be covered will be undertaken.
• Originally, the Interpretive Center was planned to be staffed by NYSDC personnel. This is clearly no longer possible; the Center will have to be staffed by volunteers and by staff members of the private non-profits that are members of the partnership.
• Lastly, the project will be undertaken in at least five phases. Staging the project in phases is a necessity in order to raise funds, over a period of time, from both the private and public sector.
This new strategy was put into effect in 2010, with Phase I of the long-term project: the design and construction of The Catskill Interpretive Kiosk on the site designated for the Catskill Interpretive Center. With the Central Catskills Collaborative, NYSDEC, CCCD and with the funding support of a number of private donors, FCIC led this partnership in the construction of a kiosk on the site of the proposed Catskill Interpretive Center. The building was designed and built by students in the Architecture and Building Technology programs of SUNY/Delhi, with the help of workers provided by NYSDEC. The sixteen large panels in the kiosk, which describe the Catskill Park, its environment, history and culture, were designed by community members and then put in final form by the staff of NYSDEC. The Kiosk was dedicated in August 2010 by Congressman Maurice Hinchey and NYSDEC Commissioner Pete Grannis. In 2011, the Catskill Interpretive Kiosk was awarded second place by the Association of Conservation Information in the category “Big ideas, small budgets.”

This first phase of the project was completed with an out of pocket cost of $9,500, all from nonpublic sources, and with considerable in kind contributions by the faculty and students of SUNY/Delhi, CCCD and NYSDEC. The total cost would have been of approximately $50,000 had the in kind contribution been monetized. The Kiosk, Phase I of the long term project of the Catskill Interpretive Center, illustrates the partnership approach that the new strategy suggests, its benefits in term of costs, and the level of community involvement The grounds of the Catskill Interpretive Kiosk are being maintained by members of FCIC (for an annual contribution estimated at $2,000).

The Catskill Interpretive Kiosk
In 2012, The Catskill Center for Conservation and Development and The Friends of The Catskill Interpretive Center decided to rename the evolving interpretive center as The Maurice Hinchey Catskill Interpretive Center in honor of the retiring Congressman from the region who had initiated and, over three decades, supported the development of such a center.
With Phase I of the long-term project to develop a Catskill Interpretive Center completed, the plan for The Friends is to undertake the next four phases as follow.

Phase II, to be completed by the fall of 2013 is The Building of the first part of a Modest Facility. FCIC, in partnership with CCCD and NYSDEC, have entered into an agreement with SUNY/ New Delhi to have its Architecture Program develop the siting and conceptual design and its Building Technologies Program help to construct a modest facility at the site of the Catskill Interpretive Center consisting, in order of priority, of a set of bathrooms (desperately needed, as there are no public bathrooms on all of Route 280), an open air pavilion, an open amphitheatre, and a small enclosed building to house a “concierge,” receive visitors, and house computer and communications equipment. The faculty and students at SUNY/Delhi initiated the design project in the Fall Semester of 2012. The NYSDEC has committed in kind resources for the final engineering design of the building, the permitting, and with the erection.

Phase III, initiated in September of 2012 and to be completed by the fall of 2013 (simultaneously with Phase II), consist of the Design and Partial Implementation of the Information Technology Infrastructure of the Center. The built facility will be furnished, the needed computer and display equipment purchased and in place, and a first phase, the test bed, of the web based software, including maps, some environmental, cultural and commercial data available. This Phase III will of necessity imply the hiring of a sophisticated commercial firm to design the system and to develop and organize the data bases required for the Center to become the gateway to the Catskill Region and a central source of information to its many public and private amenities and events. The facility should be open to the public by July 4, 2014, staffed by volunteers from members of the partnership.

Phase IV, from June 2013 to June 2014, is centered on the Maturing of the Information Technology Infrastructure of the Center. It is expected that that the full development of the Information Technology Infrastructure, its communication facility, and data base organization will require considerable effort to complete. Hence a year has been set aside for this phase.
Phase V, simultaneous with Phase IV, consists of the Completion of the Modest Facility. The facility will be built in two phases (III, and V), because of fund raising constraints; this second phase of construction will permit the expansion and furnishing of the reception area of The Maurice Hinchey Catskill Interpretive Center, and of the building of additional areas for programs and for displays.

After the completion of Phase V, further phases are possible. There might be a need for an expansion of the physical facilities, or of the information technology infrastructure, or of both. The fact that a significant portion of the information regarding the region will be in electronic form makes it possible, with very modest costs, the opening in other locations of other gateways to the region; and the expansion of the region of the Catskills to be covered by the electronic data bases.
The implementation of this strategy is dependent on the raising of significant funds from the private sector, and on not insignificant contributions from the State of New York. The Friends (FCIC) and The Catskill Center for Conservation and Development (CCCD) believe it is essential for the State to make a significant commitment to convince the private sector to emulate it. Thus, these two organizations have proposed that the State of New York commit to invest, as capital funds, $1 Million of its EPF resources in this project, with the condition that a similar amount of funds be raised from other sources; i.e., a 1-1 match to the challenge provided by the EPF funds. There are reasons for optimism that the State will commit to play its needed role in this private/public partnership. It is also expected that The State of New York will provide the modest annual funds needed to provide basic maintenance for this facility, and continue to provide mowing and snowplowing for the grounds; The partnership, through its members, will provide the staffing for the functions of the Center, and is committed to raise funds to match the EPF moneys they have requested of the State.

IV. MANGEMENT OF THE PROJECT TO BUILD AND OPERATE
THE MAURICE HINCHEY CATSKILL INTERPRETIVE CENTER
As pointed out in this paper, this project is based on the concept of a private/public partnership, a broad partnership of State of New York agencies, local governments, Chambers of Commerce, universities, nonprofit environmental and cultural organizations, and of donors. Three organizations lead this partnership: NYSDEC, CCCD, and FCIC.
These three organizations are in the process of entering into an AGREEMENT OF A PRIVATE/PUBLIC PARTNERSHIP REGARDING THE DEVELOPMENT AND OPERATION OF THE MAURICE HINCHEY CATSKILL INTERPRETIVE CENTER that describes their roles and responsibilities in the management of this project; in particular, the two nonprofits will be solely responsible for fundraising in the private sector. The three organizations are also beginning to invite other organizations, local governments, and individuals to join this partnership and to participate in its management and governance. Members of the partnership provide resources and contributions in kind and in funds for the completion, maintenance and management of The Maurice Hinchey Catskill Interpretive Center. Their contributions will be publicly recognized in appropriate fashion.



 

Our Mission:

The mission of the Friends of the Catskill Interpretive Centeris to encourage the State of New York, in conjunctioin with local governments and the private sector, to build the Catskill Interpretive Center. Once the Center is operational, the Friends will complement the activities of the State of New York and its Department of Environmental Conservation in making the Catskill Interpretive Center an important focus point of environmental, cultural, educational, and economic activities in the Catskills.

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Our Vision:

The vision Statement of The Friends of the Catskill Interpretive Center

The Catskill Interpretive Center,
A Catskill Gateway and Meeting Place

We seek continuing contact, advice, interest and support of Catskill constituencies for the creation of a regional entity, The Catskill Interpretive Center, whose purpose is to celebrate the natural and cultural assets of the Catskills and to interpret these for residents and visitors. This center is to be an appropriate public entry point for those who seek information about The Catskill Park and Forest Preserve to better understand the unique environment and natural history of the Catskills as well as its cultural and artistic assets. It is envisioned as a learning center for the region, and as a referral point for its regional museums, amenities, recreational opportunities, businesses and facilities. Such centers already exist in the Adirondacks, and are regarded as effective in providing education and interpretation about that region. The Catskill Park and Forest Preserve, New York’s second largest park, unlike similar national and state parks do not have a visitor or interpretive center; there are many very good local museums in the region, but they are specialized and devoted to particular aspects of the culture or history of the Catskills. There does not exist a facility that is a public gateway to the Park and to the region.

In seeking support for the creation of this center, we are attempting to revitalize a project of a decade ago. In the middle 1980s a grassroots effort including numerous community members, local business leaders, political representatives, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), and The Catskill Center for Conservation and Development (CCCD) led to the development of the idea and concepts for a “Catskill Interpretive Center.” Plans for such a Center were advanced in the 1990s by the NYSDEC, with extensive consultation by advisory boards drawn from the Catskill community. A 62-acre parcel of land on Route 28 in Mount Tremper, within the town of Shandaken in Ulster County (and close to the borders of the towns of Olive and Woodstock), was chosen as the site of this center. This parcel was acquired by the CCCD and the Trust for Public Land, and leased to the NYSDEC who at present continues to manage the property; the State spent over $1 million on road, bridge, site grading, and other improvements to the property. Architectural blueprints were drawn up for a 18,600 square foot building and for surrounding grounds, and plans were created for interpretive exhibits, interpretive and educational programs, travel information resources, a reference library, auditorium, gift shop, and hiking trails and connections to nearby State land. In 1995, the projected cost of the building (not including the cost of exhibits, furniture, equipment and supplies) was $ 3.68 million. The NYSDEC had also completed an Environmental Impact Statement and a Comprehensive Educational Use Plan for the “Catskill Interpretive Center.” The impetus for the creation of the Center came to a halt in the middle 1990s with a change in State of New York priorities for the Catskills. Center stage and urgency were given to the extended negotiations that led to the New York City Watershed Memorandum of Agreement, a compact among the City, the State, and the communities of the Catskills that provide water to the City. This successful compact is now in place.

The need for an interpretive center for the Catskills remains. We believe that The Catskill Park and Forest Preserve represent significant and unique public assets badly in need of an interpretive center to give them the focus and accessibility required for their full public value to be realized. The Catskills, and their visitors and residents, suffer from this unsatisfied need. We have met with the Board of the CCCD, with proponents of the proposed Catskill Water Discovery Center, and had contacts with officials of Ulster County regarding plans for a Tourism Information Center in Kingston. After numerous meetings and discussions, we concluded that NYSDEC’s original goals for a “Catskill Interpretive Center” are, today, as they were at the time of their formulation, responsive to strongly felt needs and that the already existing plans to achieve those goals retain validity. Further, these plans, both as to programs and as to the facility that would house them, are highly developed and represent an investment that should not be unnecessarily duplicated. We also note that the August, 1999 NYSDEC’s Catskill Forest Preserve Public Access Plan lists the “Catskill Interpretive Center” as an action item to be actively pursued in partnership with other government agencies, local governments and the private sector. Our meetings with senior NYSDEC officials lead us to believe that the Agency will respond to an appropriate initiative by the public. We believe that the proposed Catskill Water Discovery Center and Ulster County’s Tourism Information Center represent very valuable additions to the region, highly complementary and with only minor overlaps to an interpretive center for The Catskill Park and Forest Preserve. Close contacts between the principals associated with these three projects have resulted in statements of mutual support, and of assurances that there is no significant overlap of mission or of facilities.

Our goal is to organize a process that would encourage the State of New York to build The Catskill Interpretive Center based on an update of the plans originally formulated a decade ago by NYSDEC with the advice of community members, and at the originally planned site. As part of this process, the group decided to establish a community organization, The Friends of The Catskill Interpretive Center, whose initial purpose is to advocate the building of this center. Once the Center is operational, under the management of NYSDEC, this organization aims to energetically complement, as a non-profit private entity, the activities of the State of New York in making the Center an important focus point of environmental, cultural, and educational activities about the Catskills through appropriate programs, close continuing contact with regional museums and historical societies, and the fund-raising required for the sustenance of the Center’s programs. To accomplish this goal it is essential to develop and demonstrate a strong commitment from the Catskill community to this project, to provide evidence of financial support for the capital project from non-state sources, and to the development of a framework that will provide continuing community support and commitment once the Center is a reality. The Friends of The Catskill Interpretive Center look forward with enthusiasm and commitment to the accomplishment of this task.

Contacts
Individuals and organizations interested in The Friends of The Catskill Interpretive Center and in its goals should contact:

Sherret S. Chase, Chair PO Box 193 ...... Shokan, NY 12481 (845) 657-2392 sschase@aol.com

E. F. (Jim) Infante, Secretary ...... PO Box 216
Phoenicia, NY 12464
(845) 688-5205 EttoreInfante@aol.com

The Friends of The Catskill Interpretive Center is supported by private donations including a generous grant from The Wallace Genetic Foundation for which The Catskill Center for Conservation and Development is the fiscal agent.

 

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