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Bill supporting Fort Ontario, Safe Haven Museum elevation dies

Payne Horning
WRVO News File Photo

A bill that would have helped elevate Fort Ontario and the Safe Haven Holocaust Refugee Museum in Oswego to National Park status has died in the U.S. Senate. 

The legislation would have directed the Department of the Interior to conduct a special resource study to determine if Fort Ontario and Safe Haven are suitable to join the National Park System. The 260-year-old fort has been used in most major American wars and was home for 986 Jewish refugees during the holocaust, which the Safe Haven museum commemorates. But after passing the House of Representatives, the bill stalled in the Senate as part of a larger public lands package that did not not pass. 

"i don't know why... it was all approved and it was going to go through but it's a very... easy matter so i think we can do it in the new congress," said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), who sponsored the bill. "It will be bipartisan and will be one of the first things we pass."

The bill's author, Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus), said he is committed to getting the bill across the finish line next year. 

“While I am disappointed that this important legislation did not advance in the Senate, Fort Ontario remains a high priority for me as we move in to the start of the next Congress. I am grateful for the many advocates from Safe Haven and Fort Ontario, as well as throughout the Oswego County community, who have worked tirelessly to help raise awareness for this site and I look forward to continuing our efforts to preserve the legacy of Fort Ontario and Safe Haven by making it a National Park.”

Despite the setback, Fort Ontario and Safe Haven are still undergoing a review from the National Park System, which is a prerequisite for final approval. 

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.