Construction (finally) begins on the Catskill Interpretive Center

Above: Retired Congressman Maurice Hinchey, third from right, helps break ground at the site of the future Catskill Interpretive Center in Mount Tremper on Sept. 23, 2014. The center is named in his honor. Photo via the Town of Shandaken's Facebook page. 

Construction has begun on the long-awaited Catskill Interpretive Center, a $1.3 million, 1,700-square-foot project that has been in the works for decades.

At 11 a.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 23, representatives from local nonprofits and state agencies gathered in a field in Mount Tremper to celebrate the center's groundbreaking. The center is slated to open in the spring of 2015.

The plan to build a facility to welcome visitors to the Catskill Park has been 30 years in the making. Money and staffing have been pieced together from a large array of groups, according to a press release.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is managing construction, which is funded by several state and federal sources. The New York City Department of Environmental Protection is kicking in $20,000 per year for five years to cover operating costs.

A dedicated advocacy group, the Friends of the Catskill Interpretive Center, and the nonprofit Catskill Center for Conservation and Development will run the day-to-day operations of the center itself. And staffers will come from the Catskill Center, the NY-NJ Trail Conference, Catskill Mountain Club, Ulster County Tourism and Catskill Mountainkeeper.

Former Congressman Maurice Hinchey, who advocated for the construction of a Catskills interpretive center throughout his 20-year stint in Washington, was onhand at the groundbreaking. The facility is named in his honor.

In prepared remarks that were sent to press before the event, Hinchey 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 ... 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."

According to Dave Channon, a Phoenicia artist, sculptures by regional artists have been installed on the grounds of the center. See them below. 

Correction: Dave Channon's press release said that the sculptures on the Interpretive Center grounds were by "regional" artists, not Catskills artists, as I stated.