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[The following letter was sent to Sullivan County Legislature Chairman Luis Alvarez and the Sullivan County Legislature.]
We read with interest reports of the Sullivan County Legislature’s actions to support development of a visitor center associated with the Montreign Resort Casino at Adelaar. It was suggested that the proposed project must be fast-tracked to prepare for a speculated four million guests that the casino complex hopes to attract.
This initiative was compared to the advocacy level for a visitor center that would serve the Upper Delaware River Valley region in western Sullivan County. Certain legislators were quoted as saying that the casino-related facility fulfills a more immediate need with greater benefits, thereby relegating any river valley project consideration to the back burner.
Our committee wishes to point out that the Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River, which the U.S. Congress designated in 1978 for federal protection in concert with local stewardship commitments to conserve its outstandingly remarkable values, has a proven track record of attracting tourists and boosting the local economy, which we have quantified for you through a number of studies.
This has been accomplished through public discovery of the region’s natural assets and charming communities; marketing campaigns; and profile-raising initiatives such as the U.S. Congress’s December 10, 2016 passage of the Delaware River Basin Conservation Act, the National Park Service’s 2016 Centennial celebration, the launch of the Wild Scenic Delaware River National Geographic-branded interactive website, and the 2015 ranking by USA Today voters of the New York State Route 97 Upper Delaware Scenic Byway as the #2 Best Scenic Autumn Drive in America—all of which call out for the need to have a long-desired welcome center to provide centralized visitor information services and amenities to capitalize on these productive efforts.
When Chairperson Alvarez addressed a June 10, 2016 letter to the New York State Department of Transportation urging (unsuccessfully) that federal funding previously earmarked for an Upper Delaware Scenic Byway Visitor Center be re-directed to a casino-adjacent visitor center, he stated, “We strongly believe that a newly envisioned visitors center located near the new development in the Town of Thompson would stay true to the original intent of the project by encouraging millions of new visitors to explore the Sullivan County Catskills during their stay.”
Our committee has doubts that the target audience for a casino experience would overlap significantly with what has been envisioned for the river valley, but if that should come to pass and particularly in the numbers predicted, we believe that it strongly justifies the legislature to give active and equitable support to the development of visitor centers in both the eastern and western parts of diverse Sullivan County.
[Anthony Ritter is chairperson of the Upper Delaware Council’s Water Use and Resource Management Committee.]