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Fort La Présentation could have finished trail next year

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The Fort La Présentation Association’s dream of recreating the 1749 fort that once stood on Lighthouse Point is beginning to take shape.

The association received a $352,650 state grant Thursday through the North Country Regional Economic Development Council to develop an interpretive trail and waterfront park.

The project includes the construction of a trail network, a visitor and educational meeting space, interpretive signage, site restoration, landscaping, a parking area and links to the city’s Maple City Trail system.

The fort has also applied for $177,360 through the state Department of Transportation. If awarded, the grant will pay for a sidewalk along Main Street. A portion of that funding will also be used to construct the trail system. The total cost of the trail system is $470,200.

“Regardless of whether we receive that funding, we’ll begin working on the trail system,” association President Barbara J. O’Keefe said Friday. “We have a little bit of money in our funds and donations from in-kind services. We are always looking for outside donors.”

Lining the half-mile trail will be a series of interpretive signs illustrating the site’s history, including its pre-colonial Native American occupation, Forts La Présentation, Oswegatchie and Rensselaer, commonly referred to as Fort Presentation (with successive roles in the French and Indian War, American Revolution and War of 1812).

Earlier this year, the fort received two interpretive signs as part of a state Department of State grant secured with the help of Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell, D-Theresa.

The waterfront trail network will offer views of the St. Lawrence and Oswegatchie rivers for Ogdensburg’s residents and visitors, Mrs. O’Keefe said.

“We have the conceptual plan, and hopefully this will spur interest in the trail and get people on that beautiful piece of property, and once they are there, maybe they can learn a little bit of history, too,” Mrs. O’Keefe said.

The fort association hopes to begin work on the trail in the spring.

“The trail should take about 19 to 20 months to complete,” Mrs. O’Keefe said. “It’s the first of many phases, but it’s a good beginning,”

The second phase will be building the interpretive center; the third phase will be building the fort; and the fourth phase will be the construction of a Native American village, Mrs. O’Keefe said.

Fort association members hope the fort will serve as a tourist attraction to boost the local economy.

The association already hosts several community events, including Founder’s Day, the Primitive Biathlon, Living History Day for area students, and War of 1812 Heritage Talks.

“This project is more than just interpreting our history. It is also about economic development,” Mrs. O’Keefe said. “It is another tourism and cultural historic site. Like the Remington Art Museum, we want to become a destination instead of a stop on a drive-through.”

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