Watershed Museum to Take on Global Focus

Thursday, March 24, 2005

(ARKVILLE) – What was originally planned as a museum with a Catskill watershed-theme has now grown to an ambitious venture that will reach far beyond the "Blue Line" of the Catskill State Park taking on a more global focus.

When originally proposed, what was then known as the Watershed Partnership Museum was to have been built in the town of Shandaken on property donated by Van Loan Associates on the access road to the Belleayre Ski Center.

When the Watershed Memorandum of Agreement was signed between New York City and the communities in the Upstate watershed, $1 million was set aside for the exhibits in a museum with a Catskill Watershed theme. All the town had to do was find a site, build a structure to house the exhibits and NYC would provide the $1 million for the exhibits.

But a change in the administration in Shandaken altered the political landscape. When Councilwoman Jane Todd offered a Town Board resolution supporting the museum she was unable to obtain a second from the Democratic majority on the Town Board. Then Supervisor Peter DiModica was quoted as saying the museum was not something his administration was interested in.

So, the Museum Committee took their plans to neighboring Middletown in Delaware County which welcomed it with open arms.

"What was originally thought to be a major setback turned into something special," said Gary Gailes, president of what is now called the Water Discovery Center. Situated on 44 acres in Arkville on the banks of the East Branch of the Delaware River, the new site will consist of nature trails, wetlands, fields, the Delaware and Ulster Railroad, an outdoor amphitheater, a restaurant, sculpture garden, picnic area and exhibit buildings.

And the price tag has grown as well. What was originally thought to be a $2 million project has now mushroomed to an ambitious $20.5 million project. Plans call for making the museum a first-class tourist destination that will attract upwards of 100,000 visitors per year.

The museum will create 12 new, full-time jobs after construction generating $375,000 in annual wages. The main building will house the exhibits with over 20,000 square feet of space. There will be 1,500 square feet of classroom space to serve an estimated 28,000 students per year.

The Museum Committee has begun its fundraising campaign to raise the needed cash to make the museum a reality. The committee kicked off its spring campaign using the 10th anniversary of the United Nations World Water Day.

According to Gailes, the committee has a large mission seeking to attract support, not only locally and regionally but globally as well. "We plan to create an education center that will use the Catskill/Delaware Watershed as a classroom," said Gailes. "Our mission is teaching people of any age or nationality about the delicate balance between the world's water consumption needs and availability. We are using the area's greatest natural resource, the Catskill/Delaware Watershed as just one example of how the world’s water supply supports life."

Interest continues to grow in the project and Gailes invites people interested in the museum to come forward. "We are looking for people interested in supporting this effort," said Gailes.

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