Reimagining the Catskill Interpretive Center

“ It’s critically important to have a place where residents and visitors can learn about our unique natural, historical, and cultural resources. It will help preserve our rich heritage, keep our local economies strong, and our quality of life intact. ”

Hon. Rep. Maurice D. Hinchey
US Rep. 1993 – 2013

The Maurice D. Hinchey Catskill Interpretive Center is a partnership between the Catskill Center, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and other prominent organizations in the community including the the NYC Department of Environmental Protection, the Catskill Watershed Corporation, the Friends of the Catskill Interpretive Center, Catskill Mountainkeeper, the Catskill Mountain Club, the Catskill 3500 Club, and the NYNJ Trail Conference.

More than just a visitors center for the Catskill Park, the reimagined Catskill Interpretive Center will act as a community Gathering Space, a Mountain House, Ranger Station, Observatory and Research Lab. Situated on 60 acres of forest, fields and wetlands in the hamlet of Mount Tremper, the center is already known to the community for its walking trails, outdoor sculpture park showcasing local Catskill artisans, picnic areas, and access to the Esopus Creek.

We are embarking on an exciting new project to reimagine and reinvent the Catskill Interpretive Center. Our plan for the Center includes the design of new interactive exhibits for the Center about the park, its plants, wildlife, waterways, history, culture, and people and about the attractions and tourism-related businesses in the region ; creating a first-of-its-kind app for visitors and locals alike to learn about events in the region; and repositioning the center as a comprehensive resource for locals and visitors alike.

The redesign of the interpretive elements of the Center will further the mission of the CIC; function as a central hub for local community engagement; orient visitors to tourist sites, current attractions, outdoor activities, and seasonal offerings in the park’s communities; and educate visitors and locals alike about the area’s rich natural and cultural history while promoting the importance of stewardship, conservation, and protection of the Catskills Park.

The new Interpretive Center will aim to address a number of issues of crucial importance to the Catskills community, while providing relevant and timely information for visitors on the history and culture of the area.

Establishing Studies

Note The images selected for this website are being utilized as reference and inspiration only. They should not be considered final indications or representations of what will be used and included as part of the final project or design.

Stereoscopic Image of The Catskill Mountain House

Grounded In The Past, Looking To The Future

Since 1969, the Catskill Center has been protecting and fostering the environmental, cultural and economic well-being of the Catskill region. Along the way, the Center has developed an extensive archive of Park-related research materials, phenological data, oral histories, environmental curriculum, charismatic objects, art, crafts, along with books by local naturalists, botanists, geologists and conservationists. The new Interpretive Center will engage with the Center’s archive, allowing the public to experience the history of the region.

The CIC will provide information on the following key thematic areas:

Tourist Information

The Center will provide a concierge experience that presents visitors with practical content to assist in making the most of their visit to the Catskills. This information will include towns and villages, local hotels restaurants, as well as outdoor activities and cultural attractions. Bringing together all this content in one place will allow the CIC to serve as a hub for regional tourism – an important engine of economic activity and local employment. The center will present information on local businesses, cultural attractions, publications and periodicals, local event listings including CIC events, and tourism materials.

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  • 1. Local Businesses
    1. Hotels, B&Bs, restaurants, shopping
    2. Outdoor tour and guiding companies
    3. Outfitters and recreational facilities
    4. Farms, markets and U-Pick
    5. Breweries and vineyards
    6. Real Estate
  • 2. Cultural Attractions
    1. Art Centers / Organizations
    2. Local Artists (studios and workshops)
    3. Historical Sites
    4. Concerts and Entertainment
    5. Galleries and Museums
    6. Theater
  • 3. Publications and Periodicals
    1. Weeklies
    2. Dailies
    3. Monthly Magazines
  • 4. Local Event Listings
  • 5. CIC Events and Resources
  • 6. Tourist FAQs
  • 7. Gift Shop
    1. Merchandise
    2. Publications

Outdoor Activities

The Center will present and interpret ways for tourists and locals to engage with the natural Catskills environment, from hiking trails, to mountain climbing, to winter sports, fishing, hunting and golf. The new center will feature an indoor trailhead that directly leads visitors to experience a number of hiking trails on the Center’s grounds, while that giving visitors context and options for their continuing outdoor adventures.

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  • 8. Hiking and biking trails
  • 9. Mountain climbing
  • 10. Horseback riding
  • 11. Boating
  • 12. Swimming
  • 13. Winter sports
  • 14. Birding
  • 15. Fishing and hunting
  • 16. Fire towers
  • 17. Golf
  • 18. Tennis
  • 19. ATV/Offroading/Snowmobiling

Natural Environment

The Center will interpret and provide resources for visitors to understand the ecological systems, wildlife, plants, and geology in the Catskills region. The Center will include data readouts of phenological studies and live data from reservoirs and other monitoring sources, along with guides to animals, plants, ecological zones, and the region’s geology and ecosystems services. The center will also interpret the region’s native and visiting birds, invasive plants, and endangered and threatened plant and animal species, while providing information about the threats to the region from climate change.

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  • 20. Animals
    1. Catskill native birds
    2. Endangered and threatened species
  • 21. Plants
    1. Local wildflowers
    2. Trees
    3. American Chestnut
  • 22. Ecological Zones
    1. Dry plateau
    2. Forest
    3. Hillside transitional zone
  • 23. Geology
    1. Geologic history (Devonian and Mississippian uplift and erosion)
    2. Glacial changes
  • 24. Watershed
    1. Catskills watershed
    2. Catskills reservoir and aqueduct system
    3. Watershed protection
  • 25. Tourist FAQs
  • 26. Ecosystem Services
  • 26. Environmental Organization
  • 27. Climate change
    1. Merchandise
    2. Publications
  • 28. Phenology
    1. Water
    2. Geology
    3. Plants
    4. Animals
    5. Temperature
    6. Rainfall

Catskills Past and Present

The Center will invite visitors to learn about the history of the Catskills, from the indigenous Lenapehoking to the Hudson River School, to contemporary issues in the region. Content will situate the present-day Catskills within a centuries-long history of development, based on the “enjoyment of natural resources,” and conservation. Visitors will learn about the continuing presence of Native Americans, European settlers, the creation of the forest preserve, “Forever Wild,” and the NYC watershed system. Interpretive resources will draw on the work of naturalists and botanists like John Burroughs, Jane Colden, and John Bartram, contemporary and historic writers on the region’s history and ecology, and Hudson River School artists such as the Coles, Church, Bierstadt, Minot and others. Other exhibits will include information about local industry, ways that residents have made a living and survived through the years, and more recent (and current) art, music, and cultural contributions to the region.

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  • 29. Indigenous Catskills - Lenapehoking
  • 30. European Settlers
  • 31. Creating the Forest Preserve
    1. Forever Wild
  • 32. Creating the NYC Watershed
    1. Geologic history (Devonian and Mississippian uplift and erosion)
    2. Glacial changes
  • 33. Industry
    1. Leather Tanning
    2. Bluestone
    3. Others
  • 34. Naturalists and Botanists
    1. John Burroughs
    2. John Bartram
    3. Others
  • 35. Authors
    1. Irving, Cooper, etc.
  • 36. The Hudson River School
    1. Artists
    2. Tourism development
    3. Environmentalism and preservation / conservation
  • 37. The Catskills and Climate Change

A Future for the Catskill Interpretive Center

Past Catskills visitors included illustrious painters, authors, naturalists, and explorers, as well as everyday people seeking a break from the city. Visitors of all walks of life came to the Catskills, bringing an appreciation for nature and a desire for fresh air, relaxation, and recreation among the region’s natural wonders and unspoiled natural sights.

Visitors to the Catskill Interpretive Center will come away with an overview of the area’s rich natural and cultural history, discover local attractions and activities, and gain a broader sense of the importance of stewardship, conservation, and protection of the Catskills Park.

Celebration of Nature

The Center will present objects, images, sounds, and data that reveal the beauty, complexity, and fragility of the Catskills Park’s ecosystems. Drawing on the work of past naturalists, from Alexander von Humboldt to John Burroughs to John Bartram, along with contemporary thinking and writing about conservation and preservation, sustainability and resilience, and the human-made mark on the land, the Center will present a holistic portrait of the surrounding region, its natural treasures, human and non-human residents, and challenges.

The Center will encourage visitors to become direct and active observers, recorders, citizen scientists, and reporters of the natural world. The CCCD has promoted this form of direct observation since its inception. The Interpretive Center will make use of the CCCD archive, books, guides, live instruction by naturalists, and interactive interpretive exhibits – including a digital viewfinder that brings views of the park to the interior of the Center – to inspire observation at every level.

From pre-European settlement to the emergence of the Catskills as a tourist destination through the work of Hudson River School painters, the Center will also demonstrate how the region is changing currently with a growth in tourism, the role of Catskills reservoirs in New York City’s water system, and threats to the region’s ecosystem through invasive species and climate change.

Tourism, Exploration, and Discovery

The Center concierge experience – providing directions, practical information, and local insights to visitors assist them in making the most of their visit to the Catskills. This information includes local hotels and restaurants, as well as outdoor activities and cultural attractions. Augmenting this information are resources produced by the CIC. Bringing together all this content in one place will allow the CIC to serve as a hub for regional tourism – an important source of economic activity and local employment.

The newly designed Catskill Interpretive Center will be a gathering place for locals and tourists alike. The Center will provide space for public events, workshops, classes, and regular naturalist-guided walks and tours will depart from the Center’s indoor trailhead.

Gathering and Observing

The newly designed Catskill Interpretive Center will be a gathering place for locals and tourists alike. The Center will provide space for public events, workshops, classes, and regular naturalist-guided walks and tours will depart from the Center’s indoor trailhead.

The Center will encourage visitors to become direct and active observers, recorders, citizen scientists, and reporters of the natural world. The CCCD has promoted this form of direct observation since its inception. The Interpretive Center will make use of the CCCD archive, books, guides, live instruction by naturalists, and interactive interpretive exhibits – including a digital viewfinder that brings views of the park to the interior of the Center – to inspire observation at every level.

A Future for the Catskill Interpretive Center

Past Catskills visitors included illustrious painters, authors, naturalists, and explorers, as well as everyday people seeking a break from the city. Visitors of all walks of life came to the Catskills, bringing an appreciation for nature and a desire for fresh air, relaxation, and recreation among the region’s natural wonders and unspoiled natural sights.

Visitors to the Catskill Interpretive Center will come away with an overview of the area’s rich natural and cultural history, discover local attractions and activities, and gain a broader sense of the importance of stewardship, conservation, and protection of the Catskills Park.

Driving in the Catskills
The Catskill Center has an enormous oral history collection, with recordings spanning from 1970 to 1984. The above recording is an example found outside of this collection recorded in 2009 during Catskills Irish Arts Week by Gwen Orel.

Weather Warlock (Weather for the Blind)
From wavefarm.org: The Weather Warlock (Upstate edition) is one in a series of custom-built weather-controlled analog synthesizers. Outdoor sensors detect changes in sunlight, wind, precipitation, and temperature, with output becoming particularly dynamic during periods of rapid meteorological change, such as sunrise and sunset.

Engaging With Nature

The Center will educate visitors on the creation of the Catskills “forest preserve,” touching on Article 14 of the state constitution, which preserved the Catskills and designated that all land within the “Blue Line” of the Catskill Park must remain forever wild. The Center will encourage visitors to become stakeholders, researchers, readers, and attempt to educate and inspire on the need to continue to create and maintain public land for conservation and the enjoyment of all.

The Center will introduce new signage and wayfinding that appropriately place the Catskills Park within the visual language of nature preserves across the country. This work includes redesigning the main Interpretive Center road signage and creating a cohesive visual language for the surrounding trailheads and kiosks maintained by CCCD around the Park to create a visible presence for the Center.

Looking Ahead

In conclusion, the future Catskill Interpretive Center will function as the heart of the Catskills Park and its surrounding towns. At the future Center, visitors and area residents will come together to learn more about the history, culture, and environment of the Catskills region through interactive, digital, and physical exhibits and a new app. Through public events, workshops, and educational programming, visitors will be presented with opportunities to become active stakeholders and conservationists in the Park’s future.

Get Involved

To produce and develop the future Catskill Interpretive Center, Catskills Center for Conservation and Development is partnering with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and other prominent organizations in the community including the the NYC Department of Environmental Protection, the Catskill Watershed Corporation,the NYNJ Trail Conference, Catskill Mountainkeeper, the Catskill Mountain Club, and the Catskill 3500 Club

We are interested in hearing from you. What are your hopes and expectations for the future of the Catskill Interpretive Center? What do you hope the new center will provide?

Please take a moment to complete our simple survey form below and let us know how the can best serve you and the community!