Our area's future is now

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Editor’s note: Following is the text of testimony given by Fleischmanns resident John Hoeko on May 29 at the public hearing at Belleayre Ski Center regarding the Belleayre Resort at Catskill Park. The author asked that it be printed here as a letter to the editor.

To The Editor:
Hi, for those who don’t know me, I am John Hoeko, a lifelong fly fisherman, skier, and golfer. Most of all I am an ardent conservationist.
Let’s walk back through time.

Growing up as a young man in Fleischmanns, I vividly recall its halcyon days as a tourism Mecca in the 1950s and ’60s. Fleischmanns had four supermarkets, two department stores, many coffee shops and restaurants, two barber shops, a pharmacy, three doctors and a dentist, three soda fountains, a theatre, two hardware stores, several hotels, motels, efficiencies, and much more.
During the day, sidewalks were filled with vacationers buying fresh produce and fruit from vendor’s sidewalk displays, or having coffee or lunch al fresco.

Evenings found tourists thronging the village for the latest film, cup of espresso, or a nightcap.
The village employed local and city high school students in a multitude of service-related jobs. To name two, my sister, Marti was a herring girl and Kenny Pasternak was a waiter at the Hotel Mathes.
That’s all history. Today, Fleischmanns, except for a half dozen struggling businesses, is a veritable ghost town, I’m ashamed to say.

The future, however, can be very bright. More than just a “shot in the arm, The Belleayre Resort at Catskill Park will revitalize its immediate adjacent communities, Fleischmanns and Pine Hill, and also the peripheral communities of Phoenicia, Margaretville, Andes and Roxbury, Big Indian, and Arkville.

The Catskill Heritage Alliance should be commended for its efforts in insuring an environmentally, socially, and economically responsible project that is the subject of today’s public hearing. Also, thanks to the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development, Trout Unlimited, and other groups for their work in hammering out the 2007 compromise signatory agreement.

I am a stakeholder. Almost a year ago, I purchased a commercial building in Fleischmanns, and have intentions of completely renovating it into a fly fishing shop, coffee shop, and two apartments. Unfortunately, banks are hesitant to lend out business loans in a sagging Catskill Mountain Region economy, much less in a virtually non-existent Fleischmanns economy. Whatever it takes, I will see my relatively small project through to reality. That is my commitment to family, village, and region.

There are few, if any, present who have a stronger environmental track record than I. If construction or subsequent operation of the Belleayre Resort threatens the ecology of the Bushkill-East Branch of the Delaware Watershed, I’ll be the first whistleblower.

Let’s look at the big picture. We need a synthesis of rails and trails, the full build out of the Belleayre Mountain Ski Center Unit Management Plan, and the full build out of The Belleayre Resort at Catskill Park.

Fifteen years is too long of a time for planning and review.
It’s time to build for our future and that of future generations. The future is now!

John Hoeko,
Fleischmanns