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For Release: Tuesday, September 23, 2014

DEC Breaks Ground on the Maurice D. Hinchey Catskill Interpretive Center

Funding from Federal Sources and the State's EPF and NY Works

In partnership with the Friends of the Catskill Interpretive Center and the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development, Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens today broke ground on the Maurice D. Hinchey Catskill Interpretive Center in the Town of Shandaken, Ulster County. The Center is named in honor of retired Congressman Maurice D. Hinchey, who championed the Center for decades.

"The Maurice D. Hinchey Catskill Interpretive Center will serve as a gateway for outdoor enthusiasts to learn about the Catskill Park's vast opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors and will be an excellent asset to showcase the Catskills' natural resources and recreational opportunities," said Commissioner Martens. "Through the hard work of many dedicated public officials, DEC staff, the Friends of the Catskill Interpretive Center and other interested groups, the dream of this center is finally becoming a reality."

At the groundbreaking ceremony today, Commissioner Martens emphasized the value and importance of working with communities, local and regional organizations to tell the compelling story of the Catskills, one that includes watershed protection, environmental education, cultural and natural resource stewardship and outdoor recreational opportunities that greatly enhance the Catskill region while providing for local and regional economic development opportunities.

Commissioner Martens added, "The Maurice D. Hinchey Catskill Interpretive Center honors an outstanding leader who has demonstrated overwhelming support for the Catskills. As a state Assemblymen, Congressman Hinchey championed the idea for a Catskill Interpretive Center and secured the original funding to get the project started in the 1980s. Working with then-Governor, Mario Cuomo, Hinchey obtained additional funding to allow the project to progress, including securing property in Mount Tremper and initial site development. Most recently Congressman Hinchey secured a grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that will allow DEC to construct the first phase of the interpretive center."

The Maurice D. Hinchey Catskill Interpretive Center will provide information to visitors about the 700,000-acre Catskill Park, New York City's one million-acre Catskill/Delaware drinking watershed and ways to recreate and enjoy these treasured natural resources. The $1.3 million DEC-managed project will be funded with approximately $500,000 from New York Works III, $420,000 from the State's Environmental Protection Fund and $380,000 federal Housing and Urban Development grant.

Former Congressman Maurice Hinchey, who served 20 years in the U. S. House of Representatives, and 18 years as a NYS Assemblyman, then hailed by Governor Mario Cuomo as the "environmental conscience of NYS" said, "For too long the Catskill State Park was one of the only major state or national parks in the country without an Interpretive Center. When I was first elected to the NYS Assembly nearly 40 years ago, I was determined to change that. It's critically important to have a facility where residents and visitors can learn about our unique natural, historical and cultural resources. It will help preserve our rich heritage, keep our local economies strong, and our quality of life intact. I applaud and want to thank Commissioner Martens and the state DEC, the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development and all of our hard-working partners for putting their shoulders to the wheel to finally get this done."

DEC completed designs for a 1,700-square foot building and solicited bids for construction earlier this year. The Friends of the Catskill Interpretive Center, working under the umbrella of the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development, will operate the Center once constructed. The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (NYCDEP) has agreed to contribute $20,000 per year for the first five years toward operating expenses of the Center. The Center will be staffed by through a partnership including the Catskill Center, the NY-NJ Trail Conference, Catskill Mountain Club, Ulster County Tourism and Catskill Mountainkeeper. DEC anticipates a grand opening of the new building in spring of 2015.

Executive Director of the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development, Alan White said, "The Catskill Center is thrilled to see this first step in development of the Catskill Interpretive Center and we look forward to many exciting additions to the property in the years to come."

"Walking the trails of Ulster County is a source of inspiration for so many residents and visitors to our region," said Congressman Chris Gibson (NY-19). "This facility will help new generations become acquainted with the awesome beauty of the Catskills while honoring the legacy of Congressman Hinchey. I want to thank the DEC, the Friends of the Catskill Interpretive Center, and the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development for their community spirit and commitment to outdoor recreation. Congratulations on reaching this milestone!"

Senator James L. Seward said, "Expanding recreational opportunities in the Catskills will help boost our vibrant tourism industry and provide families and residents with healthy outdoor activities. This new interpretive center will help unlock the Catskill's full potential, highlighting our natural assets, enhancing quality of life, and drawing new explorers to the Hudson Valley region to experience all we have to offer."

DEC will build interpretive trails at the site with NY Works III funding as one of the 50 public access initiatives announced by Governor Cuomo earlier this year. The site is conveniently located on State Route 28 in the Hamlet of Mt. Tremper, Town of Shandaken, Ulster County. In 2010, DEC constructed an interpretive kiosk on the site to provide information about the Catskill Park. For more information on the CIC, visit www.catskillinterpretivecenter.org.

"The Catskill Interpretive Center will help visitors and local residents discover outdoor recreation opportunities throughout the region, which include boating, fishing and hiking areas across 120,000 acres of New York City water supply property that have been opened for public use," New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Emily Lloyd said. "Earlier this year, DEP announced that it would support the interpretive center by pledging $20,000 annually toward its operation for the first five years. Our contribution underscores the city's strong support of tourism and outdoor recreation in the Catskills, and our belief that the interpretive center will help many more people discover and appreciate its scenic beauty. We congratulate the Catskill Center, the Friends of the Catskill Interpretive Center, and DEC on today's groundbreaking after years of thoughtful planning."

"The new Catskill Interpretive Center is an exciting addition and a tremendous asset to the Shandaken area," said Ulster County Executive Mike Hein. "Ulster County is blessed with unparalleled natural beauty that draws visitors from around the world; this Center will give them a deeper understanding of the Catskills and serve as both a gateway and a celebration of Ulster County's rich artistic and cultural history. Maurice Hinchey remains both a visionary and a fierce environmental advocate who continues to be an inspiration and role model for us all."

Town of Shandaken Supervisor, Robert A. Stanley said, "The Town of Shandaken is excited to see this project move to fruition. Thanks to the lengthy efforts of a number of dedicated individuals this dream of a Gateway Center for the Catskills is finally becoming a reality. It is our hope that the Interpretive Center will be a draw for our community and region for many years to come."

Friends of the Catskill Interpretive Center President Sherret Chase said, "This gateway to the entire Catskill region makes for a promising future. Our thanks to all our partners, Commissioner Martens, Congressman Hinchey and Governor Cuomo for all your support throughout the years to make this a reality."

Executive Director of Catskill Mountainkeeper, Ramsey Adams said, "Catskill Mountainkeeper has long supported the development of a visitor's interpretive center for the Catskill Park. We applaud Governor Cuomo and Commissioner Martens' commitment to this project, which will welcome visitors to the region and greatly enhance their Catskill experience, interpreting this outstanding resource and the importance of conserving it for future generations."

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