ALBANY, NY — New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos today announced the agency’s acquisition of the former Cleveland Elementary School in Oswego County to serve as the future home of the basic training academy for DEC’s Forest Rangers and Environmental Conservation Police Officers (ECOs), and utilized by other department divisions and staff for DEC-led programs. DEC purchased the facility from the Central Square School District at a cost of $199,000.
“This incredible property served as the epicenter for education for generations of central New York children and now will be reborn to educate and train the next generation of environmental protectors,” DEC Commissioner Seggos said. “Its central New York location matches perfectly with the on-water, wilderness, and mountainous terrain our divisions and programs require for their training, and we were thrilled to work with the village of Cleveland to revitalize this amazing facility.”
Located within view of Oneida Lake on Rt. 49, the building features 53,700 square feet of space and sits on 13 acres with multiple athletic fields. The school was constructed in 1952, updated with additions in 1992, and was closed in 2014 due to declining enrollment. It features 23 classrooms, a large gymnasium, and a commercial quality kitchen and cafeteria area.
The location is roughly 30 miles from the current DEC training facility in Pulaski, Oswego County, a log-cabin motel building (formerly the Portly Angler Lodge) that had room-and-board facilities but lacked a gym and classroom space required for training.
“The DEC’s Environmental Conservation Police Officers and Forest Rangers play a very important role in protecting our state’s natural resources and its people,” said State Senator Patty Ritchie. “Their ability to train in a proper setting is absolutely critical to not only their mission, but also their safety on the job. I am excited that this building will be put back into use and would like to thank the Governor and Commissioner Seggos for recognizing that Oswego County is a perfect place to prepare future ECOs and Forest Rangers for success in their new careers.”
Assemblyman Will Barclay said, “I am pleased that Commissioner Seggos and the DEC decided to keep the school in Oswego County. With the county’s great natural resources, the former Cleveland Elementary School in the Village of Cleveland is an ideal location for the academy and a perfect use for the vacant building. In my experience, Environmental Conservation Police Officers and Forest Rangers are consummate professionals and that is in part due to the training they receive at the DEC’s academies. With the opening of the new site, I’m optimistic that this great tradition will continue.”
Central Square Central School District Board of Education President Andrew Martin said, “Having a former school building put to use in educating those that will ensure the integrity of our communities for generations to come is an ideal outcome. It is a testament to the hard work and dedication of not only the district’s staff, but to many community members as well that the DEC has chosen this location. The sale allows the Board to focus on financial and educational goals to bring the highest possible educational experience to our students, while maintaining fiscal integrity for our taxpayers. ‘As one we rise, together we soar’ is not just a tag line that applies to students. It speaks to our communities as well. Having the DEC located in Cleveland will benefit our entire District: all three counties, two villages, two hamlets and nine towns. It is a great day to be a Redhawk.”
Village of Cleveland Mayor Laureen Tackman said, “Even though it was heartbreaking as a community to lose our beloved Cleveland Elementary School, we are looking forward to a long and rewarding relationship with the DEC. We are very excited to have our school take this next step in its journey and we will be there every step of the way. We are anticipating this step as one of many for Cleveland and our beautiful North Shore toward a more vibrant and economically sound community.”
DEC is currently training 30 ECO and 14 Forest Ranger recruits at the 22nd Basic School in Pulaski, with graduation set for Dec. 6. The academy runs for 28 weeks and covers environmental conservation law, criminal procedure, vehicle and traffic laws, physical conditioning, firearms training, wildlife identification, emergency vehicle operations, search and rescue missions, land navigation, boating, and wildfire suppression.
In 2018, the 135 Forest Rangers across the state conducted 346 search and rescue missions, extinguished 105 wildfires that burned a total of 845 acres, participated in 24 prescribed fires that burned and rejuvenated 610 acres, and worked on cases that resulted in 2,354 tickets or arrests. In 2018, the 288 ECOs across the state responded to 21,668 calls and worked on cases that resulted in 20,665 tickets or arrests for crimes ranging from deer poaching to solid waste dumping, illegal mining, the black market pet trade, and excessive emissions violations.