The Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner has officially opened the Maurice D. Hinchey Catskill Interpretive Center on Route 28 in the Hamlet of Mt. Tremper, Town of Shandaken, Ulster County, which is expected to serve as a gateway for visitors to Catskills Forest Preserve to learn about the area’s outdoor recreation opportunities, its ecology, and according to a press release, its history.
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 Friends of the Catskill Interpretive Center, working under the umbrella of the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development, is expected to operate the 1,700-square-foot Center seven days a week from 9 am to 5 pm.
According to the announcement sent to the press: “The Center features a topographic floor map display with projected images from above that highlights the natural resources and other 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.”
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 New York Works initiative have provided funds for accessible trails and parking areas to improve recreational opportunities. In May 2015, DEC awarded $400,000 in Catskill Smart Growth grants to municipalities and non-profit organizations to promote the Catskills as a tourist destination.
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 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 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.
For more information on the CIC, visit www.catskillinterpretivecenter.org.