Hinchey Catskill Interpretive Center has its ribbon cut

County Executive Michael Hein with former Congressman Maurice Hinchey at the dedication. (photo by Alan Carey)

County Executive Michael Hein with former Congressman Maurice Hinchey at the dedication. (photo by Alan Carey)

Several hundred people gathered for the dedication and opening of the Maurice D. Hinchey Catskill Interpretive Center (CIC) in Mount Tremper on July 1. Local officials spoke in celebration of the long-delayed center, addressing an audience that included many Shandaken residents, along with representatives of cultural and environmental organizations.

Former Congressman Hinchey was present to receive the accolades of his admirers, including Ulster County Executive Mike Hein, who praised him as “someone who understood the issue of the environment when no one else was talking about it, who understood what it meant to be stewards of the environment and why it mattered.” Assemblyman Kevin Cahill said he had worked for Hinchey in 1975, when the Congressman sponsored bills such as one that banned new billboards from being erected in the Catskills.

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Hinchey had long supported the center, meant to stimulate the local economy by directing visitors to resources in the Catskills, from hiking trails to restaurants. The path to its construction, however, was blocked by obstacles, as noted by Joseph Martens, Commissioner of New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), which ultimately constructed the building with state funds. Martens recalled the 1988 announcement by Governor Mario Cuomo that initiated the first round of funding for the center, leading to early development of the site that later stalled after the construction of the “Bridge to Nowhere.”

Meanwhile, two such centers were built in the Adirondacks but had to struggle when funds were not available for operation. They survived with the help of outside entities such as Paul Smith College, providing a useful lesson for the CIC, which will be run through a partnership with the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development and several other local environmental groups. New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) will provide $100,000 for operation over the first four years.

State Senator James Seward remarked, “They say good things come slowly. If that’s the case, the CIC is a very good thing. I believe we will unlock the full potential of the Catskills with this center.”