Senator Says Smart Federal Investments Of Nearly $700K in the Museum’s Wild Walk, Community Maple Project, And Teacher Training Is Working; Attendance Has Increased 400% This Year And The Center Is A National Model For Teacher Training and Developing Our Maple Industry

 An Additional $75K Grant Would Help Complete Funding for the Wild Walk and Help The Wild Center Continue to Grow As An Economic Engine for the North Country

Schumer: Fed Investment Has Been “Wildly Successful” 

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer visited the Wild Center in Franklin County today and experienced first-hand the federal investments that have been leveraged to grow the museum since his last visit. Schumer said the museum’s Wild Walk, Community Maple Project and Teacher Training initiatives have made the Wild Center a booming tourist destination in the North Country, and national model for promoting maple production and incorporating nature into the classroom. With the help of almost $700,000 in federal investments over the past two years, these three initiatives have helped the Wild Center’s growth into a local treasure that has greatly contributed to the regional economy. During his visit, Schumer toured the site to see these investments at work as well as push for another $75,000 federal grant the center has applied for that will help it complete the funding for the Wild Walk. The Wild Walk consists of more than 1,250 feet of bridges and platforms that rise up into, and eventually over, a living Adirondack forest. Schumer said this funding would help the center fund the capital costs of completing this Wild Walk and allow it to continue contributing to the economic engine of the North Country. 

“The Wild Center has transformed into the king of the forest in the North Country tourism industry. We need to do everything we can to improve and expand its facilities so more tourists can see the beautiful Adirondack Park,” said Schumer. “That’s why I’m urging the USDA to approve the Wild Center’s request for federal funding to cover the capital costs of the Wild Walk. The Wild Walk has already been enormously successful and played a critical role in helping the museum smash attendance records this summer. Helping fund the completion of the Wild Walk will go a long way in allowing the Wild Center to focus on bringing more tourists to the region and spurring local economic growth.”

Schumer was joined by Stephanie Ratcliffe, Executive Director of the Wild Center, Paul Maroun, Mayor of the Village of Tupper Lake, James McKenna, CEO of the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism, and other community leaders.

“It is so satisfying to be able to tour Wild Walk with the Senator today and show him the tangible results of federal grant support. I know the Senator works hard every day to expand and maintain these critical funding streams for public educational places like museums. The funds we have recently received support innovation because they allow us to continue to develop and explore new educations methods and ways of interacting with teachers, students and the hundreds of families that visits here every day. It could be considered seed funding for the future of education,” said Stephanie Ratcliffe, Executive Director of The Wild Center.

Opened in 2006, the Wild Center is a natural history center located in Tupper Lake and a tourism magnet in Franklin County. Schumer explained that, with the help of $700,000 in federal funds over the past two years, the Wild Center was able to fund the museum’s Wild Walk, Community Maple Project and Teacher Training initiatives. These investments have been integral in establishing the Wild Center as a premier tourist destination and a model for combining education and nature in the North Country.

This summer, the Center officially opened the Wild Walk. This one-of-kind sky bridge, which features 1,250 feet of bridges and platforms situated high up in the trees, gives visitors a unique access to the treetops of a living Adirondack forest. The experience includes a giant spider’s web, a four-story tree house and a treetop bald eagle’s nest that offers a 27-mile view on a clear day. The Wild Walk has helped the Center break all of its previous attendance records, bringing thousands of visitors to the Adirondacks and driving economic growth. In the month of July alone, more than 50,000 people visited the Center.

Schumer said the site is a booming tourism success, and should be allowed to grow so it may further contribute to the North Country economy. That is why Schumer, in addition to seeing these federal investments at work, is pushing for $75,000 in federal funding for the Wild Center through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Rural Business Development Grant (RBDG) program. With the RBDG, the Wild Center will able to fund the capital costs of its Wild Walk. Schumer said the Wild Center’s development and expansion is vital in providing the North Country with a site that will bring in tourists, educate the public about the Adirondack’s unique natural resources, and spur local economic development. As a result, Schumer said the USDA should help finance this needed tourism and education project so the Center can continue to accomplish its goals of bringing these unique natural resources to the public. This grant would help fund the costs it took to build the Wild Walk. The Center has $1.5 million left to raise to meet this fundraising objective.

Schumer has long fought for the Wild Center and its efforts to contribute to the economy by bringing in tourism revenue through its unique nature center. In particular, Schumer advocated on behalf of the Wild Center when it applied for an Institute of Museum and Library Studies (IMLS) grant that was used to develop the museum’s Community Maple Project. These funds provided half of the cost for a two-year project, in which the center involved the community in making syrup as it trained other small maple sugar producers. In addition, this project allowed the center to create events to drive tourism during maple season and provided educational materials for sugar makers to display in their maple storefronts and sugar shacks.

Schumer added, “I remember vividly meeting Betsy Lowe for the first time, the evening before Thanksgiving 1999 at the Wawbeek, and hearing her dream for a natural history museum of the Adirondacks.   I’ve heard hundreds of large scale project plans over the years, and most don’t make it to the finish line,  but there was just something about Betsy and about this idea that made me think ‘I think she just might do it’. I was here in 2004 when ground was broken, and I have been here a few times since. Each time I am struck how far the Wild Center has come. And, now to see this Wild Walk is just amazing. What started as a Betsy Lowe’s dream, and grown now under the leadership of Stephanie Ratcliffe, into an absolute jewel in the Adirondacks.”

During Schumer’s last visit to Tupper Lake, in August 2014, he toured Downtown Tupper Lake and held a meeting with local business leaders to discuss revitalization efforts currently underway, future economic development plans for the region as well as ways to grow the economy and create jobs. Schumer met with many local business leaders, including Stephanie Ratcliff, Executive Director of the Wild Center.

A copy of Schumer’s letter to the USDA appears below:

Dear Secretary Vilsack:

I am pleased to write in support of the application submitted by the Wild Center requesting $75,000 in funding through USDA’s Rural Business Development Grant (RBDG) program.  Such funding will help the Wild Center continue to grow its successful Wild Walk exhibit.  

Located in Tupper Lake, New York, the Wild Center is working to support the development of a rural tourism economic anchor project, the Wild Walk.  This one-of-a-kind sky bridge and towers situated high up in the trees gives visitors unique access to the tree tops of a living Adirondack forest.  The Wild Walk officially opened to the public in July 2015, and has helped the Wild Center break all of its previous attendance records, bringing thousands of visitors to the Adirondacks and driving economic growth. 

With funding, the Wild Center will fund the capital costs of building its Wild Walk, which will serve as a catalyst for economic development for the surrounding rural communities.  In addition, the Wild Walk will play an integral role in educating the public about the exceptional ecological treasure that is New York’s Adirondack Park.  I applaud the Wild Center for its foresight and request your consideration of this grant application, and your assistance to help finance this needed tourism and education project.  Moreover, I would appreciate your assistance to identify any other USDA funding programs that could help accomplish their goals of bringing these unique natural resources to the public.

Thank you for your consideration.


Charles E. Schumer

United States Senator


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