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Katko Legislation To Advance Designation Of Fort Ontario, Safe Haven To National Park Status Heads To House Floor For Vote

Proceeds from the June 7 Fajita Grill fundraiser for Friends of Fort Ontario will support new exhibits and interpretive programming at Fort Ontario State Historic Site. This summer an AmeriCorps member, funded by Friends of Fort Ontario, will conduct youth programs featuring historic games and activities for children. (Photo by Kara Alheim, Oswego County Tourism Office.)

Proceeds from the June 7 Fajita Grill fundraiser for Friends of Fort Ontario will support new exhibits and interpretive programming at Fort Ontario State Historic Site. This summer an AmeriCorps member, funded by Friends of Fort Ontario, will conduct youth programs featuring historic games and activities for children. (Photo by Kara Alheim, Oswego County Tourism Office.)

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today (June 15), legislation introduced by U.S. Representative John Katko, H.R. 4202, the Fort Ontario Study Act, was unanimously approved by the House Committee on Natural Resources.

The bill advances the designation of Fort Ontario and the Safe Haven Holocaust Refugee Shelter Museum in Oswego towards National Park status.

Today’s full committee approval comes less than a month after Representative Katko delivered testimony in support of his legislation before the Committee on Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands.

The bill now advances to the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives for a vote.

Refugees gather at the fence of the Fort Ontario Emergency Refugee Shelter, 1944-1946. Photograph by Leni Sonnenfeld from the collection of the Beit Hatfutsot Museum.
Refugees gather at the fence of the Fort Ontario Emergency Refugee Shelter, 1944-1946. Photograph by Leni Sonnenfeld from the collection of the Beit Hatfutsot Museum.

“This legislation takes the first step in preserving the legacy of a historic gem in our community.  Fort Ontario has been involved in nearly every war from the French and Indian War through WWII, with Safe Haven providing shelter to over 980 refugees during World War II,” said Katko. “This historic site already draws visitors from across the nation and its designation as a National Park would preserve the history of this site and continue to boost our region’s growing tourism-based economy.”

Katko’s legislation would commission a special resource study of Fort Ontario to evaluate the site’s national significance and determine the suitability of its designation as a part of the National Park system.

This study is a prerequisite for receiving National Park designation.

Over the course of the past several months, individuals from across Oswego County have worked to organize local support for the designation of the 260-year-old Fort Ontario and the Safe Haven Holocaust Refugee Shelter Museum as a National Park.

As a part of these efforts, Rep. Katko has visited the fort on several occasions, met individually with a cross-section of his constituents in the area surrounding the Fort, and took part in an information and rally event to raise community awareness for this project.

Katko represents the 24th Congressional District, which includes all of Onondaga, Cayuga, and Wayne counties and the western portion of Oswego County.

For more information, please visit https://katko.house.gov or www.facebook.com/RepJohnKatko.