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Seaway announces of opening of visitors center

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MASSENA — The St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corp. announced Thursday that the Dwight D. Eisenhower Visitors Center at the Eisenhower Lock will open for the season today.

But at least for now, the Greater Massena Chamber of Commerce won’t have a presence with its gift shop.

The Visitors Center will be open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, including weekends, through Labor Day.

It normally opens on Memorial Day but was delayed this year for facility maintenance to repair damage caused by winter weather. In the interim, visitors were asked to view ships from the Eisenhower Lock North Side Observation Area, which remains open through the year.

The repairs included replacement of the main building’s roof and repairs to the ground floor of the center that suffered water damage.

“They had major ice and snow damage and had to wait for repair. It’s been rectified. The Seaway did a good job. They did what they had to do,” chamber Executive Director Michael J. Gleason said.

The opening delay, however, meant calls to the chamber office from visitors.

“We’ve had a lot of calls from people wondering what was going on. People are coming down for day trips and wondering why the lock store was not open. People are coming from all over the place,” he said.

Now, Seaway officials say, visitors can watch commercial and cruise ship transits from around the world from an observation deck.

Guides are available to provide additional information to tourists.

Seaway officials said hundreds of ships from all over the world go through the St. Lawrence Seaway annually, carrying a wide variety of cargoes including grains, iron ore, coal, steel, stone, steel slabs and project cargoes.

Up-to-date information on estimated vessel transit times is available by calling 769-2422 for a voice recording of that day’s projected lockage schedule. Additional information is on the website at http://wdt.me/wK5mkM. That map updates every 15 minutes with details on the ships in transit within the Seaway system.

Under security measures that were implemented after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, visitors will be asked to leave all packages, bags and backpacks in their vehicles. Any items that have to be carried into the viewing area must be presented for inspection or for checking by a metal detecting wand.

While visitors will be able to view the ships, they may not find the chamber’s gift shop open for business.

Mr. Gleason said it boils down to funding for the employees to run the shop. He said the chamber sent a letter to Seaway officials explaining that it would not be able to run the store “because we’re short of funds to run it.”

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