NYC commits to Catskills Interpretive Center
By Jay Braman Jr.
Like the legendary Rip Van Winkle, who slept for decades before awakening to a new era in the mountains, The Catskill Interpretive Center has risen from almost 30 years of dormancy and seems to be rewarded for doing so again and again.
Most recently, it’s the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) that has announced a gift to the Center.
On Thursday, DEP Commissioner Emily Lloyd revealed plans to contribute funding to the future Catskill Interpretive Center, slated for 62 acres in Mount Tremper and set to be built this summer, as part of the City’s commitment to support environmentally friendly economic development, tourism and outdoor recreation in the Catskills. DEP will contribute $20,000 each year for the first five years the center is open to help the pay for operation and maintenance costs.
About 20 years ago there was little friendship between the DEP and the Catskills as the former tried to impose strict land use regulations on the region to protect the water supply for New York. But years of battling led to an agreement in 1997 and ever since both sides have become partners in both water quality protection and the preservation/enhancement of the Catskills economy.
In a prepared statement, Lloyd, who was instrumental in preparing that 1997 deal during her first stint as the DEP’s Commissioner, spoke of how far things have come since those battle days.
“Our contribution to the Catskill Interpretive Center underscores the City’s strong support of tourism and outdoor recreation throughout the Catskills,” Lloyd said. “Since 2008, DEP has nearly tripled the amount of water-supply land that is open for recreation without a permit, and we have begun new programs for hiking, boating and licensed outdoor guides. The Catskill Interpretive Center will help visitors find these unique outdoor attractions more easily, while also educating them about the New York City water supply and its connection to the Catskills. We hope our support of the interpretive center compels others to contribute funding and volunteer their time to help this important project thrive.”
Sherret Chase, chairman of Friends of the Catskill Interpretive Center, was pleased with Lloyd’s decision. “I welcome this commitment of the New York City DEP to grant $20,000 for each of the next five years,” he said. “It is a major commitment to the stable operation of the Catskill Interpretive Center, and, most importantly, it is an indication of partnership in the interest of the Catskill region.”
Just last month Governor Andrew Cuomo made an $85,000 commitment to build a new accessible loop trail and two other trails near the Interpretive Center site as well as to build a bridge that is needed to connect the site to state owned land on Mt. Tobias and rehabilitate an historic fire tower on the mountain.
In addition to that $85,000 and the City’s $100,000 pledge there is $1 million in state funding dedicated to the project, as well $350,000 in Federal money secured by Former Congressman Maurice Hinchey over 20 years ago.
The Interpretive Center, as originally planned over three decades ago, would cost over $7 million today but remains unbuilt at the 62 acre Mount Tremper site dedicated for the project. New, downscaled plans are expected to still serve as a physical and virtual gateway for visitors and residents to learn about the plethora of recreational and cultural activities available in Catskill Park and the Catskill Region.