DEC: Be Clear About Belleayre
In 1947, New York’s legislature amended our constitution
to permit the construction of the Belleayre Mountain Ski Center.
It was a project that embodied extraordinary vision and by any
objective measure has been quite a success story. Amongst those
successes was the creation of a Catskill Mountain ski industry.
Together with the private investment that followed at Hunter
and Windham Mountains, as well as other mountains around the
region, that industry has served as a critically important component
of our regional economy since its inception.
To all those whose vision, hard work, and investment built that
industry, we give thanks. You created wonderful recreational
facilities public and private, provided hugely significant employment
opportunities for our region, and contributed enormously to
the second-home and other development which has long supported
our modest rural tax base.
And like most people in our region, we believe Belleayre’s
continued survival is a critically important part of our future.
We applaud the efforts of the many individuals and all the local
groups, from the Coalition to Save Belleayre to the Catskill
Heritage Alliance, who are currently seeking to protect our
local treasure and ensure its future well-being. That future
is, without question, closely tied to the well being of many
of us here.
We don’t know what the future holds for Belleayre. Key
decisions, by and large, will be made elsewhere and by those
whose direct personal impact from their decisions will be limited
by distance. So we share deep concerns when we see - as we all
have lately – potential major impacts to the Belleayre
Mountain Ski Center’s operating budget as an apparent
result of our State’s deepening fiscal problems. Whether
such across-the-board statewide cuts are temporary or not remains
to be seen. And it’s very difficult to criticize such
moves when comparing them to comparable cuts in other areas
of state funding in, say, public health or safety or education.
All we know is that, as with all cuts, it is essential that
advocate for our interests. Although we are troubled by some
recent developments involving intra-county and municipality
feuding that arises when times get tough.
Back when Ulster County majority leader David Donaldson called
for a boycott of Hunter and Windham ski areas based on Greene
County’s support for a commission to review competitive
issues between public and privately owned ski areas, we thought
his actions to be among the more irresponsible things any local
public official had done in a while… although, in the
end, the issue was rendered moot via gubernatorial veto.
We believe that unilateral calls for economic warfare between
neighbors is beyond the pale of appropriate conduct, inherently
hurtful, and something to be avoided at all costs.
Along those lines, we question the recent actions of Shandaken
councilman Rob Stanley when he threatened to hold directly competitive
events if Belleayre’s annual Octoberfest was relocated
off the mountain to Arkville, which indeed it has been. Given
the nature of drawing audiences to these hills, such action
could prove disastrous for all parties… and send the wrong
message to would-be tourists.
Imagine making plans to visit someplace for a vacation, or even
a day trip, only to find that you’re entering some sort
of Hatfield and McCoy battleground.
We do appreciate the need to advocate for our own interests,
but cool heads are need to sort out how.
The uncertainty of what lies ahead for Belleayre remains subject
to plans, evolving and still under review, for a major private-public
partnership involving both the Ski Center and the proposed Belleayre
Resort project. We applaud DEC’s decision of last year
to move forward on that review as the single integrated project
which it is, in compliance with state law.
But we also worry that continuing confusion about what those
cuts really are, and what’s being touted as possible as
a means of rallying the local community, may end up muddying
already muddy waters as to the ski center’s future.
We understand that the rocky shoals we’ve entered with
our entire national economy makes sorting this stuff out more
difficult, especially given our state’s reliance on Wall
Street and the financial industry as such a key player in all
our economic lives. But the sooner we can start getting a sense
of what’s being talked about, be it capital, operating,
or advertising dollars, the better we can all plan for our own
The same goes for various city programs in the region…
are deep cuts to DEP programs planned? Will they include capital
We’ve entered our budgeting season with loads of trepidation
and in addition to hoping that all those programs that benefit
us stay healthy, especially at Belleayre, we ask for as much
openness about what’s being discussed… so we can
make plans to.
After all, you know where we stand about transparency of process
and laying your budget cards on the table. Which is half the