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Fort Delaware in Narrowsburg is being considered as a location for the Upper Delaware Scenic Byway’s Visitor Center. The fort would remain in operation, while a new center might be built adjacent to it.

Fort Delaware could host byway’s visitor center

By Dan Hust
NARROWSBURG — April 13, 2010 — The Upper Delaware Scenic Byway (UDSB) Committee has expressed an interest in using Fort Delaware in Narrowsburg for its proposed visitor center, and the County Legislature may follow suit.
At the committee’s March meeting, members unanimously agreed to send a letter of conceptual support to the county.
“This represents a site change from the original proposal to construct the UDSB Visitor Center at the Cochecton Station (restored 1850s-era Erie Railroad depot) property on NYS Route 97 in the Town of Cochecton for which the site owner, the Cochecton Preservation Society, Inc., was negotiating with Sullivan County to transfer the deed,” UDSB Grants Coordinator Laurie Ramie wrote in a letter to Legislature Chairman Jonathan Rouis last week.
As County Planning Commissioner Luiz Aragon and Parks Director Kristin Porter told the committee in March, the county’s fiscal difficulties have kept the project shelved, even though more than three-quarters-of-a-million dollars has been set aside for it via state and federal grants.
Per the original plan in Cochecton, the county would have to chip in $150,000, plus pay for ongoing maintenance and staffing of the 3,000-square-foot facility.
Fort Delaware, a 53-year-old museum showcasing local life in the colonial period, is run by the county, and its additional use as a visitor center for the byway would constitute the county’s contribution to the project instead of the $150,000.
“Both the UDSB and Fort Delaware have one core mission: to embrace the Delaware River valley,” explained Aragon. “Bringing those two together could be a very strong combination.”
He and Porter told the committee that the fort, though staffed by dedicated volunteers and hosting 4,000 visitors a year, has not recouped its annual operating expenses. Still, the county continues to commit funding to it as a valued cultural resource.
They envision the visitor’s center as allowing the fort to expand operating hours and programming beyond the current summer-only season, while increasing maintenance and staffing costs far less than at the proposed Cochecton location.
“UDSB, Inc. recognizes that the Fort Delaware site offers potential advantages – including operational, maintenance, and staffing considerations – and the ability to use the value of the county-owned property as the required federal grant match during these challenging fiscal times,” Ramie wrote to Rouis. “Preliminary discussions with county officials have suggested that the benefits to arise from this partnership opportunity could be mutual. We also share a goal of providing renewed momentum to this project that dates back to a grant application filed on March 10, 2003.”
She noted, however, that this new plan is dependent upon obtaining agreement from Congressman Maurice Hinchey and NYS Senator John Bonacic, who helped provide $760,000 in federal and state funding.
“They’re OK as long as it serves the byway,” said Aragon, who had been in touch with both men.
The County Legislature will also be asked to vote in support of the idea this month, and if it passes, a request for proposals will be issued for companies interested in conducting a feasibility study on what would be a separate but connected facility on Fort Delaware’s grounds.
The study would cost $25,000, but the UDSB plans to utilize an existing grant to reimburse the county.

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