Depot Museum faces uncertain future

NORTH CREEK The North Creek Depot stands virtually unchanged since its construction in 1872. With a history extending far beyond the reach of its tracks the buildings, station, and platform remain as a testament to the founding of a community and the opening of the Adirondacks to settlement and commerce. The Depots wooden platform has welcomed some of the nations most famous industrialists, witnessed the succession of our twenty-sixth President, and served as a conduit of trade and tourism for nearly 100 years. Since its resurrection in 1993 and the return of a scenic tourist railroad to the area thousands of visitors are introduced to the region each year thanks to the hospitality of the North Creek Depot, and the neighboring Depot Museum. Operating on lands and buildings wholly owned by the museum, the Upper Hudson River Railroad contracts with the group to provide platform services. Contrary to popular belief, the museum does not receive a percentage of ticket sales, and the contract is their only source of direct railroad funding. As economic pressures continue to face the region, rising fuel costs and budget shortfalls have plagued the museum organization to the point where they face an uncertain future. The Depot Museums President, Helen Miner, issued a formal statement at least weeks town board meeting, and presented the organizations dire economic status. Were in a crisis situation, said Miner. This past winter we had to shut our heat off because of the rise in fuel prices. We just couldnt afford to cover the expense all winter, especially as a not for profit organization. Citing the various conditions that led to this disclosure, Miner expressed in a recent interview her desire for the community to understand their position, and petition for a permanent agreement of community support. She noted that if the current situation is not resolved by the end of summer, the group feels a decision to close down completely will be their only course of action. I dont think the town realizes what we have and the struggles that have been going on for so long. But this year it was more than we felt we could bear for our members and for ourselves. The group hopes to increase awareness of their contribution to the community, and local businesses, while at the same time dispelling many misconceptions related to their funding sources. We do raise money through memberships, grants, and fundraisers but its just a pittance compared to the expenses we are facing, said Miner. We want the town to know what a valuable asset we have down there and we just cant afford to lose it. Beyond its contractual relationship with UHRR, the organization also operates a free-admission local history museum in the Owens House building, provides services during Thomas the Tank Engine, the Bluegrass Festival, and other regular events each year. In 2007, over 13,000 visitors passed through the property, and were welcomed by museum staff and volunteers. By working closely with the town board, and appealing to the community, Miner hopes to find a permanent solution to their historic problems. They continue to work on a merger with the Johnsburg Historical Society, with the goal of combining their efforts for the benefit of both organizations. We have wonderful volunteers, and our museum director Shirley Falazerano is quite an asset. We have wonderful programs lined-up for the school children this year at the museum. In a situation like this, you have to look at everything, added Miner. Were all trying to work together, but we feel its time to have a contract with the town to provide services to the town for everyones benefit. Future plans include the development of the Owens House into a full-scale educational facility, a climate controlled room for the storage of artifacts, and the groups continued role as a primary promoter of the town to each of the railroads visitors. When people come into the museum, they will ask us about the museum, but also about the town, where to go eat, if there other museums in the area. Were like an information booth down there, said Miner. The Museum recently received recognition from the State of New York, which included the establishment of a permanent museum charter. In April, they were also honored to host a television crew from PBS, who spent a considerable amount of time interviewing museum volunteer, Milda Burns, regarding an upcoming special on Theodore Roosevelt and the northern presidents. In May, Miner will meet with town Supervisor Sterling Goodspeed to discuss how to address the needs of the organization. Its a turning point for us, concluded Miner. Its really such an asset to the town, we just felt it was time for people to know what was going on.

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