Guest Editorial: Make your voice heard

By Tom White, Chairman
Coalition to Save Belleayre

On May 22 and May 29 we will have the opportunity to review and comment on a plan that will shape our future. No jobs, failing and closing businesses, rising taxes, falling population, and closing schools all point to a region in crisis. The prospect of a $75 million state investment coupled with a private investment of nearly $400 million must be encouraged. The creation of hundreds of permanent and part time jobs, the influx of tourists and the inflow of millions of dollars in real estate and school taxes to our local communities cannot be ignored. The need is great, the situation is dire, the project is right and the time is now. The Coalition to Save Belleayre most strongly endorses both the full build-out of The Belleayre Mountain Ski Center and the positive review of the Modified Belleayre Resort at Catskill Park.

The Unit Management Plan (UPM) is New York State’s detailed plan for the expansion of Belleayre Mountain. It is ready for public review. The DEC will present it at a public meeting at Belleayre on May 22 at 7 p.m. This UMP is long overdue and spells out the plan for this storied ski facility to reach its potential as the economic engine of our region.

The Coalition to Save Belleayre is a grass roots group of skiers, business owners, elected officials, and taxpayers who have worked together for more than 30 years to highlight the fact that Belleayre is our region’s economic driver. The Coalition has been a constant advocate, fighting an uphill battle to get needed resources and attention. We point out that the purpose for creating the ski center more than 60 years ago was for it to serve as an economic catalyst in the region and to provide a top quality recreation experience in the Catskill Forest Preserve. It was a smashing success.

More investment needed
However, lack of investment, aging facilities and a limiting trail design and layout have taken a toll. Despite the skillful and determined efforts of its employees and supporters, the ski center has struggled to get its share of visitors and our tourism industry has been on a long downward slide. We support the full build alternatives in the UMP because three decades of experience tells us that any other alternative will leave us where we’ve been left since the mid-70s – always struggling, falling behind, losing population, losing businesses, fighting to keep hopeful and optimistic.
The UMP is being reviewed in conjunction with plans for the private sector proposal for the Belleayre Resort at Catskill Park. We are also advocating for the permitting and construction of the Belleayre Resort. Without a public/private partnership, neither the ski center nor the region will be able to achieve what our region needs them to be. Together, they make sense – economically and environmentally.

At Belleayre Mountain Ski Center, improvements would provide for new, challenging trails, a new main lodge, expanded auxiliary lodges, new lifts and parking areas. Much of this work would occur at the former Highmount Ski Center, a historic and storied ski center just adjacent to Belleayre. The plan also includes upgrades to most of the existing, structures and lifts allowing for state of the art design and engineering techniques to achieve maximum efficiency as well as new low energy snowmaking systems.

Major boosts for the region
The Modified Belleayre Resort at Catskill Park proposal calls for a world-class resort, situated next to the expanded state-owned ski center. It will become a premier, four-season resort directly serving the New York metropolitan area. It will also be the most environmentally advanced development project the region has ever seen.

Deed restrictions will prohibit the operation of any Casino-style (Class III) gaming on the Resort properties.

Upon full build out the project will pay $3.7 million in annual property taxes to local municipalities and school districts. The project will create $24.85 million in annual on-site resort wages and will have a $168 million total annual economic effect on the regional economy.
This project has been in review and modification for nearly 15 years. It has been shrunk, improved, moved, lowered from the ridgeline. It has responded to all suggestions with modifications. It is a far better project than when first proposed.

This plan is not by itself a savior or all that is needed, but it is a step in the right direction toward rebuilding our true Catskill heritage – a thriving and growing, green, sustainable tourism industry!
For all of these reasons, the Coalition to Save Belleayre urges approval of the full-build alternative for the ski center and The Resort at Belleayre Mountain. No more delays and no more review extensions. We urge everyone who agrees with us to participate:

E-mail your support to belleayre@gw.dec.state.ny.us or
Mail a letter to Daniel T. Whitehead,
Regional Permit Administrator
NYDEC, 21 South Putt Corner Road, New Paltz, NY 12561-1620 OR
Be at the public hearing at 3 p.m. or 6 p.m. in the Discovery (Lower) Lodge at Belleayre on May 29 ready to speak.

If you do nothing to make your opinion known you are opting for no change and that means a continuing decline, decay and withering of our villages, population and future.