NARROWSBURG, NY — Eighteen years ago, the Upper Delaware Scenic Byway (UDSB) was born of legislation drafted by the New York State Scenic Byways System. Since then, this not-for-profit …
NARROWSBURG, NY — Eighteen years ago, the Upper Delaware Scenic Byway (UDSB) was born of legislation drafted by the New York State Scenic Byways System. Since then, this not-for-profit organization dedicated to the promotion and preservation of State Route 97 between Port Jervis and Hancock has matured from a beautification group to a body proactive in sustaining Delaware River corridor ecology, history, art, and architecture. It is fast becoming something else as well: an engine for economic growth and tourism.
More than three years ago, then State Senator Jon Bonacic secured a $250,000 economic development grant for UDSB use; it was about to expire, along with Bonacic’s term of office, when plans for a Sullivan County Visitors Center in the western half of the county collapsed. Meanwhile, the Hamlet of Callicoon was seeking a new use for the unused train depot that bisects upper and lower Main Streets. UDSB stepped up, grant in hand, taking on its most ambitious project to date.
Even with the generous grant, UDSB would need at least one partner to share the cost of converting a 127-acre 19th-century railroad property into a 21st-century visitors center. It approached the county first, but the offer was declined. Enter the Callicoon Business Association (CBA). Together, the two organizations began bargaining with Central New York Railroad Corporation for long-term lease of the depot and 0.5 acres of land.
To get the lease, an environmental study would have to be completed. Phase I of that study would detect environmental damage. Phase II would mitigate any damage found. Phase I has been completed. As expected, and consistent with the property’s 140 years of use as a train station, fuel spills were found. Mitigation has already begun, and will consist of removing surface spills and covering affected ground, probably with pavers.
At its June 22 meeting, UDSB released the first hint of how a finished visitors center could look. Nicole Vallance of the Callicoon Business Association unveiled artist concept drawings of interior and exterior visitor center spaces. Emphasizing that the drawings are designed to provoke thought and spark discussion, Vallance said public feedback will be sought, welcomed, and incorporated into the finished project. A Callicoon Depot website is currently in development by website design and management consultant John Enck.
A survey of the parcel has been completed, and an engineering proposal is in the works, pending a September 1 inspection of the building structure. With the help of a $75,000 Sullivan Renaissance grant awarded to CBA last year, a $7,000 hamlet-wide study, to begin in the next few weeks, will assess parking needs and options associated with the visitors center and increased tourism traffic.
In other business, UDSB approved a proposal by Steve Franzken of Mid-Hudson Web for custom redesign of the UDSB website. Included in the redesign package will be four-week turnaround to website completion, a host server, firewall development, and security software. Bad luck has dogged the UDSB website, which has experienced numerous hacks and crashes in the recent past, and is currently inaccessible.
Some of the UDSB’s many pollinator gardens, planted years ago, have become overgrown eyesores full of weeds. It was noted that everyone likes to plant a garden, but there is less enthusiasm for tending and weeding it in perpetuity. Sullivan Renaissance maintenance support grants may be available to help with the cost of restoring these gardens to their original glory, but willing hands are much needed.