A local college has officially taken over the Paul Smiths Visitor Interpretive Center.
Officials with Paul Smith's College and the Adirondack Park Agency announced this week the transfer of the VIC building from the state to the college.
Additionally, a long-standing lease of the college's land by the APA was terminated with the transfer - which was made official Dec. 31, 2010.
The Paul Smiths and Newcomb VICs were closed last year after being cut from the APA's budget due to New York's ongoing fiscal crisis.
Paul Smith's College already owns the lands surrounding the VIC and will now own a 24,500-square-foot public assembly building, including a 158-seat multi-purpose room, and staff offices, as well as exhibit and classroom space.
Dr. John W. Mills is president of Paul Smith's College. He said in a prepared statement that the transfer is good news for the community.
Ken Aaron is communications director at Paul Smith's College. He says the deal removes any doubt about the future of the facilities at the VIC.
"We're really excited that we're going to be able to help maintain this community resource," Aaron said. "It means that as we move forward and work closely with various groups to identify opportunities for future programs at the VIC, the uncertainty surrounding what's going to happen to that building has been settled."
He adds that the college will continue to work with various groups to find ways to continue programming previously offered by the APA. But Aaron says the college itself will not play an active role in the facilities operation.
"That's going to be up to other organizations and the community to step forward and do that," he said. "Although we are hoping we can facilitate those discussions moving forward. We hope that in the near future we'll be able to announce the plans and aspirations of the groups that we're working with."
Among those local groups that have expressed interest in picking up where the APA left off is the Adirondack Park Institute, who previously stated they would like to continue the educational mission the VIC provided.
Aaron says the API has received grant funding to carry on educational programs. Attempts to reach representatives at the institute were unsuccessful Tuesday afternoon.
Andy Flynn worked for the APA as senior public information specialist from 2001 to 2009 and organized "save the VIC" protests last spring. He praised the college for taking the lead on securing the facility's future.
"I hope they're able to keep it open economically, in the long run, which I'm sure they have a plan for," Flynn said. "That will serve their purposes and public education as well. I hope they take full advantage of the volunteer corps that's been out there for 20 years educating the public about the Adirondack Park. Together with the Adirondack Park Institute, I think they'll make a great team serving the public."
APA Executive Director Terry Martino says the agency is pleased that a positive outcome has resulted from the closure of the facility.
Agency spokesman Keith McKeever says the APA will begin seeing savings in its budget in the coming year.
College officials say students will have access to the lands for educational purposes. Spokesman Ken Aaron stressed that the trails at the Paul Smiths VIC will remain open to the public.
In a related story, the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry reopened the former Newcomb VIC this week after taking over programming at the beginning of the year.