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December 04, 2016
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We at The River Reporter believe it’s finally time to find a solution to acquiring a visitors and/or information center for the Upper Delaware River Valley. Too many opportunities have been lost in the past. At one point there was even money—lots of it—to build a visitors center in Cochecton. Former U.S. Representative Maurice Hinchey helped get Congress to authorize funds ($600,000) and state Senator John Bonacic helped win the promise of another $250,000. But Sullivan County, feeling it could not come through with the required matching funds to back the Cochecton site (20% of the federal grant), instead worked to move the project to Narrowsburg’s Fort Delaware historic roadside attraction, where county-owned property would have helped fulfill that requirement. Ultimately, the use of the authorized funds for Cochecton expired, and Congress declined to reauthorize Rep. Hinchey’s earmark for the new location.

Now, the Town of Lumberland is talking of creating a visitors center. The town has applied for a state grant ($325,000) to buy property for such a facility near its border with the Town of Highland. While it is tempting to applaud anyone with the drive to get a visitors center for their town, what is needed is a well-thought-out plan to benefit the whole Upper Delaware River Region from Hancock to Sparrowbush.

We believe the needs of the NPS also need to be considered. Its mission is not like that of visitors centers that are filled with business brochures promoting travel and tourism destinations and activities. According to Sean McGuinness, park superintendent of the Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River, from the NPS point of view, information and interpretive centers need to inspire by telling the story of a place and its people. He envisions a center built sustainably with local materials—locally harvested logs and locally quarried blue stone. These materials themselves are interwoven with our region’s heritage. “This valley has so much to offer,” McGuinness said last week. “It needs a visitors center.”

The River Reporter heartily agrees, and we feel that this time is the time to get it right.