By Erin Meyer
Oswego, NY- Fort Ontario has existed longer than the United States itself, serving in nearly every military action the nation has had since its creation in 1755. But the fort has another claim to fame, one that sets it apart from the rest of the country: it housed the only shelter in the United States for European refugees during WWII, the Safe Haven Holocaust Refugee Shelter. And now, thanks the passage of the Fort Ontario Study act by the House of Representatives, it’s one step closer to becoming a national park.
“The move to become a national park began many years ago,” Kevin Hill, president of the Safe Haven Refugee Shelter Museum, said. “One of the reasons we are looking to become a national park is because this piece of history is so unique.”
Hill has been working to get the park recognized for quite some time. Now, thanks to the efforts of New York representative John Katko who introduced the act, the process is finally underway.
“It’s just such a big piece of history,” Hill said. “There’s a real push to preserve that history in the best way possible and to make sure that we do everything we can to keep that history alive.”
But the designation of a national park in the city of Oswego won’t just benefit the park itself. For the folks who live here, having a national park in their backyard means new jobs, new businesses, and new opportunities.
“There are some more impacts that could happen to the economy, local jobs, tourism, things that will really boost the area, said Hill. “Both employers and residents use amenities such as national parks.”
There’s no doubt that having a national park in the city will boost the local economy. But Hill says that’s not the only benefit for city residents.
“It’ll bring a sense of pride to the community,” Hill said. “It’s unique for the Oswego area, it’s something that no other community in the United States can lay claim to.”
The Fort Ontario Study Act was received in the Senate on Tuesday. If it is passed there, it will be set into motion. For more information on Fort Ontario and the Safe Haven Holocaust Refugee Shelter Museum, visit historicfort ontario.com and safehavenmuseum.com.