Due to the extended legislative session in Albany, the scheduled opening of the CIC and the planned Open House are both delayed pending a reschedule date. For updates, check https://catskillcenter.
After 30 years of planning, funding, building a “Bridge to Nowhere” at the entrance, defunding, becalming, revising, and rebooting, the Maurice D. Hinchey Catskill Interpretive Center (CIC) is at last constructed and preparing to open on Saturday, June 27. Located on Route 28 between Boiceville and Mount Tremper, the center will hopefully boost the local economy as both a tourist attraction and a source of information for visitors.
“Tourism is a green industry that brings jobs and money to our region,” said Michael Drillinger of the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development (CCCD), the non-profit agency in Arkville that is charged with managing the CIC. “IBM isn’t coming back, and we just fought off Niagara Bottling. We want people to go to our towns and shops and galleries, to buy our arts and crafts, as well as hike and boat and fish. The CIC will direct visitors to things to do and see and places to stay in the Catskills.”
A ribbon-cutting and dedication was tentatively scheduled for Wednesday, June 24, at 11 a.m., but it was reported that Governor Andrew Cuomo had expressed interest in attending, which might shift the event to a different date. See the CIC website or Facebook page for confirmation.
The building is located on a 62-acre parcel of land that still retains traces of its past as the Longyear farm. Tucked away in the woods that line the edges of the property are a stone pool for watering horses and a tiny family cemetery. Handicapped-accessible nature trails thread through the woods. As of June 16, the display area of the building was still empty, except for posters on topics such as wildlife, fire towers, and hiking, while two video screens showed loops of photos and information on the Catskill Park and New York City watershed.
Due to be delivered on Friday was the centerpiece, a 3-D scale model of the Catskills, with a projector mounted above, displaying points of information across the model. “The original plan, developed in the ‘90s, called for 15,000 square feet,” said Drillinger. “This building is only 1800 square feet, and the display space is 1000. We need to tell the story of the Catskills in a small space, and we’re doing it with technology.”
The two video screens can be easily updated with new photos and information through a flash drive, and iPads will be stationed around the room, along with a computer work station, so visitors can use them to search for galleries, waterfalls, covered bridges, restaurants, and a plethora of other destinations. “They’ll be set to go only to certain websites,” said Drillinger. “Through the Catskill Association of Tourism website, people can find accommodations and activities. With a grant, we developed a database with 1800 points of interest. A Web application generates a map and sidebar menus. Locations appear on the map, and you can create an itinerary.”
The electronic information covers the whole Catskill Park and has been designed so it can be transferred whole to other portals of the Catskills. “Whether the state builds other interpretive centers or private people provide the space, we don’t know,” said Drillinger.
Boiceville sculptor and furniture maker Steve Heller of Fabulous Furniture has created custom benches and stands for the iPads. The electronics-resistant will be able to consult physical maps, including topographic maps of the mountains, plasticized by Catskill Art and Office Supply. A small shop will sell trail guides and books about the Catskills.
Vols still needed
Although New York State provided the estimated $1 million for construction of the CIC, the state is not funding the operation of the center, which has been organized by a partnership of local organizations. Staff members come from Catskill Mountainkeeper, Catskill Mountain Club, New York-New Jersey Trail Conference, Catskill Heritage Alliance, and 3500 Club, and more volunteers are needed to advise visitors and help them access information. New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and Catskill Watershed Corporation (CWC) are providing $30,000 per year, or three-fifths of the annual operating costs, for the first five years. The rest of the funds for paying utility bills and hiring a small maintenance staff will have to come from public support.
Money will also have to raised for future projects such as building a fire tower on the ridge above the center, which the DEC has committed to erect. The CCCD plans to sell steps up to the top of the tower, each step engraved with the donor’s name. Other ideas include an outdoor bluestone amphitheater for public programs and a covered pavilion for picnics and gatherings.
“We have an amazing resource in the Catskill Park, both public and private lands,” said Drillinger. “People come here from around the world. We want to make it easy for them to find what they need.”
The Catskill Interpretive Center will open on Saturday, June 27, with balloons and banners, cookies and juice. The center will be open seven days a week, from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. To offer your services as a volunteer, contact Michael Drillinger at the CCCD, 845-586-2611.