Bellayre supporters want stimulus bucks
By Jay Braman Jr.
The chairman of the Ulster County Legislature has urged Governor Paterson to allocate stimulus money for the expansion of state-owned Belleayre Mountain Ski Center.
“I am concerned that the Obama “economic stimulus package” will pass by without the needed expansion of Belleayre Mountain Ski Center being included,” said Chairman David Donaldson in an April 9 letter to the governor. “The long overdue expansion of this state-owned property is a $62 million project that will require 200 jobs to build it. Additionally, 150 to 200 permanent jobs coupled with 600- to 800-seasonal jobs will be created once it is completed…… The ski center’s expansion was approved by the voters of New York State by a constitutional amendment 20 years ago. I hope you agree this is long overdue, and I ask you to finally make the Belleayre Mountain Ski Center expansion a reality as requested by both our constituents.”
Gary Gailes, a spokesman for Crossroads Ventures, the company planning a $400 million resort right next to Belleayre, said that funneling stimulus money to Belleayre makes sense “irrespective of the plans for Crossroads.”
“If there was anyplace in need of stimulus money it’s the central Catskills,” he said, noting the increasing number of closed businesses and for sale signs popping up along the Route 28 corridor.
An economic issue
Joe Kelly, chairman of the Coalition to Save Belleayre, agrees. “It’s not a skiing issue, it’s an economic issue,” Kelly said Friday. “ Let’s be clear about this, our area of the Catskills is in a desperate economic situation and we need help to survive.”
Following a special meeting last week, The Coalition to Save Belleayre and dozens of supporters of the ski center called on the governor again to provide economic stimulus money to Belleayre to bolster the economy and provide much needed jobs to the Central Catskills area. Saying again that Belleayre is the economic lynch pin of the Route 28 corridor, Kelly asked that money be used for an expansion project on the state’s own property that would create or sustain 1,000 jobs.
Local businessman Lewis Kolar echoed Kelly’s sentiments noting that economic stimulus money should be used for projects that were planned long before the current downturn.
In a letter to Governor Patterson, Kolar said, “Our region has long suffered from the economic limitations imposed by being the handmaiden region for New York City’s water supply. As a result, and under the severe limitations imposed by the DEP and DEC concerning water contamination and clarity, we are unable to provide a home for most industries that could relieve our underserved economy. The region has suffered under this yoke since World War II. The only substantial economic opportunities available are recreation and tourism.”
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) spokesman, Yancey Roy, was not aware of the request Friday and did not discuss whether the Belleayre expansion plan, said to still be on the drawing board, would be ready to accept stimulus funds.
For over a year, the DEC has been preparing a plan for the expansion of Belleayre. That plan, which has not been made public, is expected to be complete this summer.
Belleayre’s expansion plan has received considerable community attention ever since 2007 when it was linked to Crossroads Belleayre Resort at Catskill Park project. Crossroads $400 million resort would comprise two complexes, one with a 250-room hotel and 139 townhouse-style lodging units surrounding an 18-hole golf course; the other with a 120-room hotel and spa, 60 lodging units in two buildings and another 60 detached units in up to 52 buildings.
If the resort is approved, the state has agreed to build new lifts and trails next to the resort on 78 acres that would be purchased from Crossroads by the state. The maximum length of ski trail at Belleayre under law would be 25 miles.