The outstanding success of a Maryland site dedicated to Harriet Tubman may bode well for similar results in Auburn, but what the Cayuga County project is lacking thus far is a concrete financial commitment by the state.
The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park in Church Creek, Maryland, has drawn 100,000 visitors in its first year of operation — 25,000 more than planners had anticipated. The park reports that its visitors have represented every state in America and 60 other countries and that park guests are leaving glowing comments in the visitors log.
Getting the Harriet Tubman National Historical Park in Auburn off the ground is much more fluid and much more complicated, given the various sites involved and the managerial and financial partnerships being developed.
One thing Auburn has in common with Maryland is the understanding that a quality interpretive center is key to educating people about Tubman's story. But while Maryland's $21 million visitor center seemingly sprung up overnight, Auburn's anticipated $30 million center won't be built until 2020 at the earliest — and even then only if enough money becomes available.
Maryland's park did receive some federal funding, but the state stepped up with most of the aid — more than $17 million. New York officials, on the other hand, have talked in general terms about supporting the project here. The clock is ticking, and the people putting together the vision for the Tubman visitor experience in Auburn need a better answer than "maybe" when it comes to state funding.
"What a beautiful Maryland story," one visitor said after a visit to Church Creek. With the proper investment, we can expect to one day hear positive things about Tubman's Auburn story, as well.
The Citizen editorial board includes publisher Rob Forcey, executive editor Jeremy Boyer and managing editor Mike Dowd.