New Assateague Visitors Center Work Initiated

ASSATEAGUE – Amid much
fanfare and long speeches by state and federal lawmakers, ground was officially
broken on Monday for the long-awaited Barrier
Island Visitors
Center on Assateague
Island.

Retired U.S. Senator
Paul Sarbanes, along with his successor Sen. Ben Cardin and Congressman Wayne
Gilchrest, were among the dignitaries on hand on Monday for the official
ground-breaking ceremony for the new 10,000 square-foot visitors center at the
entrance to state park not far from the new University of Maryland-Eastern
Shore Coastal Ecology Research Laboratory. Several local elected officials and
members of the environmental community were also on hand to the festivities on
Monday.

The new visitor’s center
will provide and unified entrance to the barrier island’s state and national
parks as well as interactive educational opportunities for the millions of
visitors to the Assateague Island
State Park and National
Seashore each year. It is being constructed as part of the ongoing
redevelopment of visitor services on the barrier island.

Sarbanes, along with
fellow Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski, successfully lobbied for federal
funding for the project as far back as 2005. With official groundbreaking
ceremonies on Monday, the construction phase of the visitors center project can
now begin in earnest although it is not expected to be completed for several
years.

After Assateague Island
National Seashore Superintendent Scott Bentley opened the ground-breaking
ceremony on Monday, Sarbanes delivered the keynote address and praised the
cooperative efforts of the federal, state and local governments.

 “Oh what a happy day this is,” he said.
“Getting this visitor center was not easy. You have a project that makes such
imminent good sense and you have such a tough time getting it through.”

The Assateague Island
National Seashore Visitor Center received roughly $6.3 million in federal pass
through funds, although not all of the funding is dedicated to the construction
of the facility alone. Some of the funding is also earmarked for related
improvements to the road system on the island and other projects.

Sarbanes said during his
address on Monday continued improvements will only enhance everything the national
and state parks on the barrier island have to offer.

“Assateague
Island is a virtually unique resource in our nation,” he said. “We
need to build on the community support for it, now more than ever.”

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