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National Park Service will conduct study on Fort Ontario, Safe Haven museum

Payne Horning
Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus) announces that the National Park Service is planning to do a preliminary study on whether Fort Ontario and the Safe Haven Holocaust Refugee Museum are worthy of national park status.

The National Park Service (NPS) has agreed to complete a reconnaissance study on Oswego's Fort Ontario and Safe Haven Holocaust Refugee Museum. Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus), who pushed for the study, said it is another positive development in the community's attempt to elevate the two historic sites to national park status. He has authored a bill that, if passed, could make that a reality.

"It's not the bill, but it's a prerequisite to the bill," Katko said in front of the Safe Haven Museum Thursday. "It's important because a lot of people don't get that done first. By getting that moving, it's really going to help expedite the process."

Katko expects the reconnaissance study, one part of an overall evaluation that will need to take place to determine if the two historic sites are worthy of the special designation, will take place next summer. In the meantime, he said the U.S. House of Representatives will likely vote on his bill in the next few months. It recently passed out of the House Committee on Natural Resources by a unanimous vote.

He said the special designation could do a lot for Oswego.

"Not only is it important from a historical standpoint, but it's also important from a tourist standpoint," Katko said. "You want to talk about jobs, you want to talk about revitalizing the economy around here, you want to talk about tourism. You have a beautiful lake, you have the NOAA project on Lake Ontario, trying to make that a marine sanctuary. So, you have a lot of good things happening to not only trying to keep jobs, but trying to expand jobs."

The 260-year-old fort has been used in most major American wars, and it was home for 986 Jewish refugees during the Holocaust, which the Safe Haven Museum commemorates.

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.