Press Release

Contact: Martie Gailes

Water Discovery Center of the Catskills claims its space on August 25

Saturday site dedication marks the first footprint for a 25,000 square foot interactive exhibit space and visitor center

"When you drink the water, remember the spring." — Chinese Proverb

What better home for a cutting-edge educational and exhibit center to focus the world's attention on the looming global crisis of life-sustaining water than right here in the Catskills — a region that has sacrificed so much to supply a billion gallons of water every day to the thirstiest city on the planet?

The Water Discovery Center of the Catskills will formally dedicate its 43-acre Arkville site on Saturday, August 25 at 3 p.m. With that step, the Water Discovery Center will take the momentous leap from a drawing board possibility into a living work in progress.

Symbolically and literally, the Water Discovery Center (WDC) will be located at the very heart of the Catskills-Delaware Watershed on the "crossroads" in Arkville on County Route 38. WDC trustees and creative team members welcome everyone from public officials to local residents and the press to join them on August 25 as they unveil their logo signage and formally accept a "life-sustaining" seed money award from the Catskill Watershed Corporation (CWC) in the amount of $1 million.

"We see this grant as an investment in the future of the region, our country and, for that matter, the world. It will also come back to benefit our regional economy many times over," said CWC Executive Director Alan Rosa. A feasibility study already commissioned and completed by the WDC team shows that the $25 million Water Discovery Center could bring almost 100,000 visitors and more than $10 million into the region each year, including almost half a million in payroll alone and an additional half million in related service expenses and taxes to the community.

Visitors to Saturday's site dedication will get a firsthand peek at architectural and exhibit space designs, which have taken another leap forward since the WDC held public forums last spring. Architect Joseph Hurwitz and exhibit creative team leader Leonard Levitan will give guests a "virtual" walk through of WDC's multi-faceted interactive learning spaces, which will include five exhibit halls, an outdoor amphitheater, an extensive wetlands and nature trail tour, the latest in educational and teleconferencing technology, a visitor's railroad depot and a regional "Launch Pad" information center guiding visitors to all the many nearby attractions of the Catskills. Refreshments, take-aways, presentations and fun activities are all planned for the August 25 site dedication and families are especially welcome.

At the event, you can learn more about the mission and inspiration behind the WDC: "The life-and-death issue of fresh water will be every bit as critical in this century as oil has been in the 20th century," said WDC Board President Gary Gailes. "Nearly all the world's fresh water assets are already claimed by agriculture, industry and human beings on the planet right now; there is no more where that came from," said Gailes, adding "building public awareness and grassroots momentum will be essential if we're going to tackle this problem in the near future. The WDC will be the only center of its kind in the world, with graphic, hands-on exhibits that show visitors how to become pro-active stewards of our planet's most essential resource."

"What more fitting place to bring this story to life than right here in our watershed, a region that made the New York City metropolis possible?" he added. "People here understand deep in their bones that water is a finite resource, because they have sacrificed so much in economic and emotional terms to share that resource."

The WDC site dedication is the official kick-off for the WDC's next steps: a $25 million capital campaign to fund the center construction and the search for an executive director with the vision and energy to turn drawings into bricks and mortar. "We welcome applications from anyone," noted Martie Gailes, who is coordinating the search. "Clearly the qualities most needed are philanthropic and fundraising savvy, combined with a personality who excels in building organizations from the ground up and who will get everyone else excited about the possibilities WDC brings to our region," she added.

The WDC may sound like a fantastical pipe dream but the board has done its homework: most notably an extensive feasibility study, completed last September by ConsultEcon of Cambridge, MA. The study projects numbers of visitors and annual operating income, conservatively estimated at 90,600 visitors and $1 million operating revenue annually. For a region abounding with recreational activities like skiing, hunting and fishing, the Catskills can fall short on other ticketed attractions. In addition a "visitors central" area with exhibits dedicated to Catskills tourism activities and accommodations, the WDC would house both casual and "sit down" restaurant facilities, extensive native gardens and landscaping, as well as symposium and event-hosting capabilities, designed to create extended and repeat visits.

Learn more about the WDC and its mission and plans, by visiting online at

WDC board and creative leadership boasts extensive local involvement by longtime community leaders, activists, planners and educators. The leadership group includes Board Chairman Keith Porter, Ph.D, who is also director of the NYS Water Resources Institute, President Gailes, Vice President Carol O'Beirne, Treasurer Lewis Kolar, and Secretary Michael Porter.

Creative team members include architect Joseph Hurwitz of West Hurley, who has numerous "Best Building" awards to his credit and whose regional clients include the Culinary Institute and the daunting expansion of Newark International Airport in New Jersey. The exhibition design team is led by Leonard Levitan of Levitan Design, which since 1975 has created exhibits for nine World's Fairs, NASA, the National Aquarium in Baltimore, the National Geographic Society, General Motors, Hershey Foods and numerous government visitor centers and exhibits around the world, from the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture to British Columbia to Queensland.

WDC trustees include Middletown Supervisor Len Utter, Margaretville Mayor Bill Stanton, Alan Rosa, John Reidl, Eric Wedemeyer, Sally Fairbairn, Glenn Miller, Lynn Gitter, Robert Kalb, Robert Levin, and Carol Urban. Martie Gailes is heading up the Executive Search Committee and Dennis Metnick serves as WDC's counsel.

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