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Bill to make Fort Ontario, Safe Haven Museum part of National Park system gets first hearing

Gino Geruntino
WRVO News File Photo

During a hearing on Capitol Hill, Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus) urged his colleagues to designate Oswego's Fort Ontario and Safe Haven Holocaust Refugee Shelter Museum to National Park status. The Republican congressman is sponsoring a bill that would trigger a study to determine if the historical sites are worthy of becoming part of the National Park system.

In his testimony before the House of Representative's Subcommittee on Federal Lands, Katko talked about a photo he brought to the hearing of some of the 986 Jewish refugees who were sheltered at Fort Ontario during the Holocaust.

"That's situated in my office, one of the first things people see when they walk in is that photo and I want people to see that to understand its historical significance and the lives it saved in WWII," Katko said.

Bill Shaddox with the National Park Service (NPS) said they supported Katko's bill at the hearing. But, he said the NPS recommends that 24 previously approved studies concerning other potential sites be completed first.

Shaddox's testimony also said that Katko's bill should be amended to omit the following, citing cost and time: 1) a study on what impact the status elevation would have on local recreational and commercial activities and the ability of state and local governments to manage it and 2) determine which governments and other authorities could be involved in local land use decisions.

Payne Horning is a reporter and producer, primarily focusing on the city of Oswego and Oswego County. He has a passion for covering local politics and how it impacts the lives of everyday citizens. Originally from Iowa, Horning moved to Muncie, Indiana to study journalism, telecommunications and political science at Ball State University. While there, he worked as a reporter and substitute host at Indiana Public Radio. He also covered the 2015 session of the Indiana General Assembly for the statewide Indiana Public Broadcasting network.