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CAMP STORE DEDICATED AS A WILDERNESS MUSEUM

The spot where some of the earliest campers in Allegany State Park bought supplies is now a memorial to the simplicity and rigors of their wilderness retreat from the pace of 1920s civilization.

The rehabilitated Old Quaker Store Museum in the park's Quaker Run area was dedicated Wednesday in honor of State Sen. Jess J. Present, R-Bemus Point, who sponsored a legislative referendum and helped obtain Natural Heritage Grant funding to begin the project in 1996.

Built as the Larkin Economy Store in 1925, the structure served as a meeting place and the center of commerce in that area of the park until it was closed by health officials in 1986.

The museum now houses a permanent exhibit, "The Wilderness Playground of Western New York," which chronicles the history of camping in the park and explains its natural resources and other features. A life-size cabin of the type built on piers to house guests in the 1920s contains original furniture and a stove, and an interactive miniature relief of the entire park greets visitors entering the museum.

The building was stabilized and painted, with rest rooms and a handicapped-accessible entrance installed.

Park Director Jim Rich said after the dedication ceremony that about $150,000 from various state funding sources, in addition to other contributions from the Allegany State Park Historical Society, the Peebles Island Resource Center and private sources, paid for the renovation project.

State Parks Commissioner Bernadette Castro said the museum helps the park live up to early efforts to promote it as a place of "rest and instruction," and she pointed to completion of two new winterized cabins nearby as evidence of a continuing spirit of entrepreneurship.

"Too many people downstate don't know about this," Ms. Castro said, declaring her goal to introduce the park to city dwellers and expose them to the wilderness.

She said the cabins, built with lumber grown and milled at the park, are booked up through February, renting for $495 a week for six people.

During the dedication, Ms. Castro unveiled a new map and guidebook recently published by the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and geared to snowmobiling on state lands. Called "The New York State Snowmobile Corridor Trails Map, 1997-1999," it will be sent to all registered snowmobile owners and government officials in the state, Ms. Castro added.

Present told dignitaries and invited guests assembled around the front porch of the museum that it will remain as an educational resource and an opportunity to step back in time. He also recalled winter camping and tobogganing at the park with his two young sons.

After the ceremony, Rich said a new ski chalet on Summit Hill is the next project for the park, with concrete being poured this week. When completed this winter, it will be a rest stop for cross-country skiers and mountain bikers.

After the dedication, Ms. Castro said work continues on a soon-to-be-completed master plan for the park. She indicated commercial logging is not part of the plan, but some means of managing the timber blown down during storms is included.

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