At one time there was some $850,000 available to build a Scenic Byway Visitors Center on Route 97. But because there was a county match required of $150,000, and tough economic times gripping the county and world, the project has not come to fruition.
At a meeting of the Sullivan County Legislature at the government center on May 8, lawmakers held a lengthy discussion on the topic, and it’s possible that the money promised in the past may not be available now. Former Congressman Maurice Hinchey secured $600,000 for the project in 2006, but because of inactivity that was reduced in 2011. And, because the proposed location of the center was moved from the Cochecton Train Station to the Fort Delaware Museum of Colonial History, new congressional action would be needed in order to secure federal funding.
Also, Senator John Bonacic secured $250,000, but Jill Weyer, the acting commissioner of the Sullivan County Division of Planning & Environmental Management told the legislature the money “at the moment is also in jeopardy and may not be there.”
Weyer and other members of the department asked the legislature if they should move forward with attempting to have some of that money redirected toward the project.
During a discussion about the merits of the project, it was noted that some 300,000 visitors a year are drawn to the Upper Delaware River Corridor in which the new center would be located, and could possibly serve as host for events year round, whereas Fort Delaware is available only in the summer months.
In 2011, a concept for a building on the site was designed with a proposed cost of $1.4 million. The building has several unique features such as a living roof that would support vegetation and which visitors would be able to walk on.
It was noted that an existing building at the site has bathrooms that need to be updated and that the new building could house new bathrooms.
Weyer said that, with permission from the legislature, the planning staff could apply for state funding through the Consolidated Funding Application process to have construction documents for the building drawn up.
Legislator Cindy Geiger was concerned about the price tag of the facility.
Legislator Gene Benson said he agreed with legislator Alan Sorensen and chairman Scott Samuleson, “You’ve got to spend to make.”
Geiger quickly replied, “We don’t have.”
Benson, “I know we don’t have, but if they’re going to get grants and different types of funding, I think we should give them the go-ahead to do that.” The legislature ultimately agreed that the project should move forward.
The actual funding, if secured, will go to the Upper Delaware Scenic Byway.