Meetings underway to plan Catskill Interpretive Center on Route 28

Above: An artist's rendering of the Catskill Interpretive Center, a long-planned -- and long-dormant -- project on Route 28 in Mount Tremper that has recently gotten some new wind in its sails. From the Catskill Interpretive Center website.

The proposed Catskill Interpretive Center on Route 28 in Mount Tremper, an ambitious tourism project that was mothballed for over a decade, is once again moving forward.

This afternoon, at the Shandaken Town Hall, local residents will have the chance to comment on the project and meet the team of SUNY Delhi architecture students who are designing the proposed center. At another meeting on Friday, December 14, the students will present their designs to the public.

Advocate Jim Infante writes on behalf of the partnership behind the plans for Catskill Interpretive Center, which includes the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development, and the Friends of The Catskill Interpretive Center:

As part of the planning for the construction of a facility, the Partnership has engaged a student class of the Architecture Department of SUNY/Delhi to produce siting and conceptual plans for a building for the Interpretive Center. The students plan to make two presentations to the public of architectural drawings illustrating eight concepts of the planned facility. The Partnership has arranged for these two presentations to take place at the Shandaken Town Hall (on Route 28) on Wednesday, November 28 from 3:00 to 6:00 PM, and on Friday, December 14 from 3:00 to 6:00 PM. The November 28 presentation is for the purpose of soliciting comments and suggestions from interested members of the Catskill community about the then tentative plans for the facility; these suggestions will be then taken into consideration by the student designers who will then, at the December 14 meeting, present the final designs they propose. These eight proposals will provide the conceptual foundations for the final detail design of the facility to house The Maurice Hinchey Catskill Interpretive Center.

In the immediate local area, the meetings will also be broadcast on Channel 23.

The Route 28 site purchased and partially developed for the Catskill Interpretive Center was dubbed the "bridge to nowhere" after the state apparently abandoned the project. The Freeman writes:

In limbo since the mid 1990s, the Interpretive Center was to be a facility in Mount Tremper that would give visitors an abundance of information about the entire Catskills region and the incentive to venture out and explore the wonders of the territory.

The idea for the project was developed in the mid 1980s under Gov. Mario Cuomo and got as far as the purchase of 62 acres and over $1 million worth of site improvements before it all came to halt when George Pataki became governor in 1995.

With its impressive new pavement, bridge and parking lot, locals quickly began joking about “the road to nowhere” as it became more and more clear that the state, despite a significant investment, was no longer interested in the plan.

But in recent years, there have been hopeful steps forward. In 2009, SUNY Delhi students designed and built a kiosk at the site, with maps of the region and information for tourists.

Why build a multi-million-dollar tourist center in the Catskills? In a paper describing the project and the needs it would fill, Infante bemoans the local lack of centralized information for visitors to the region:

The author of this paper, a local resident of the area, decided to play tourist one weekend; he sought to seek information about places and events he well knew existed and were taking place at the time by asking at local restaurants, cafes and bed and breakfast locales. The results were most disappointing, indeed discouraging, leading to the conclusion that “word of mouth” is an ineffective form of information dissemination and that a more purposeful, coherent means of informing a tourist is needed if the many assets of the area are to be appropriately utilized.

Below: A Flickr slideshow of SUNY Delhi students building the information kiosk that currently sits on the site planned for the Catskill Interpretive Center, in April and May of 2009.