on the News
to Belleayre spokeperson Dawn Bauer, the staff got the idea last week
when the mercury dipped below freezing long enough to crank up the snow
guns. At the same time, natural snow began to fall.
“Wednesday morning Mother Nature started to tease us with some
snow flurries, then overnight she let the temperature drop enough to
fire up the guns for Thursday morning,” Bauer said.“With
the temperatures dropping down to about 19 degrees it was enough to
get the snowmakers out on the hill and the white stuff flying. If we
continue to stay on Mother Natures good side, Belleayre Mountain is
shooting for opening on Saturday November 13th.” As of press time,
Belleayre HAD stayed on that good side. The snowmaking guns were blasting
whiteness all over the main trail on the top of the mountain, with more
flurries coming in over the remainder of the week.
The early November opening date may be a record for the 55-year old
ski center, according to people in its administrative offices in Highmount.
And the good news of such an early opening is just fodder to what has
already been an autumn of similar good news.
On October 19, state Sen. John Bonacic announced at a press conference
in the Overlook Lodge at Belleayre that he had recently secured a $750,000
grant from the state’s Environmental Protection Fund for the ski
center. The money will go toward any number of plans outlined in the
ski area’s one-day-to-be-released “new” Unit Management
Plan, a document under preparation in recent years, but whose existence
was disavowed in public statements by DEC, when it’s release was
requested for simultaneous review with the Belleayre Resort project
this past summer.
Bonacic said it is unusual for the state to grant funds without a specific
purpose, but in this case it would make an exception.
“We’re advancing the money because Belleayre is a wonderful
success story,” the recently re-elected state senator said. “They
need more ski trails, more lodge space, faster ski lifts. As for what
this $750,000 specifically accomplishes, I’m leaving that up to
Tony Lanza’s discretion.”
Earlier this year, opponents of the Belleayre Resort project proposed
by Crossroads Ventures claimed that project could stifle future growth
at Belleayre. If built, it would surround the ski center with two golf
courses and hotels and residential units containing almost 1,300 guest
Bonacic said the resort project had nothing to do with the ski center,
or vice versa.
“It’s apples and oranges,” he said. “My announcement
today dispels that rumor.”
“It doesn’t prove a thing,” countered Judy Wyman,
a member of Friends of Catskill Park, at the time of the senator’s
announcement. She and other opponents of the Belleayre Resort project
have stated that they fear that the golf resort could limit the expansion
of the ski facility because the area may not have sufficient water and
other resources to support the development of both.
Should the state-run ski center open as planned this weekend, it will
come two days before a special New York City media reception, “First
Tracks” sponsored by I LOVE NY and featuring Whiteface, Gore,
Windham and Hunter Mountains, as well as Belleayre.
Meanwhile, the other two major ski centers in the region, Hunter and
Windham, don’t seem too concerned with getting open soon.
Hunter Mountain has a tentative opening day of Nov. 20th. Windham Mountain
is shooting for a November 19th opening.
All three have up-to-the minute websites that skiers are urged to check
on a regular basis for slope conditions and for possible opening day
Belleayre’s site is simply www.belleayre.com. Hunter’s site
is www.huntermtn.com. Windhams site is www.skiwindham.com.
to OCS Board President Marino D’Orazio, meetings with state Assemblyman
Kevin Cahill, on October 21, and Senator John Bonacic, on November 1,
yielded promises from both legislators to help the district seek statewide
legislation pushing the responsibility for Large parcel taxing decisions
off local school boards… pending action from the full OCS board
seeking such a move. The OCS Board approved such a formal request at
its monthly meeting Wednesday, November 3.
“The meetings were informal, all about trying to figure out what
can be done now,” said D’Orazio, who said the meetings with
the legislators were attended by himself, OCS Superintendent Justine
Winters, and trustee Neil Eisenberg. “Cahill said he would present
a bill to the legislature when we request such action as a board. Bonacic
basically said the same.”
“They each admitted having underestimated our predicament as a
school board,” D’Orazio said. “The problem is how
much a distraction this Large Parcel issue serves for our work as a
The board president added that although no one’s come up with
any solutions to the problems inherent in the legislation to date, and
no one is thinking the legislation will be repealed any time soon, the
recent dialogues have raised hope that at the very least, the onus for
raising taxes will be shifted from the school board’s shoulders
and placed elsewhere.
D’Orazio concluded by noting that he and Winters were now planning
to make follow-up calls, and perhaps new meetings, with State School
Board legislative liaison David Liddle in Albany.
“We’re unhappy with what we’ve been stuck with and
are doing everything we can to work on it,” said D’Orazio.
The other big issue blamed for last summer’s budget defeat –
the closing of the West Hurley Elementary School – was also addressed
at the recent meeting, albeit in an off-handed fashion, with new trustee
David Patterson of West Hurley announcing the first organizational meeting
for his requested Communications Committee to take place Wednesday,
November 10, at the High School cafeteria starting at 7 p.m, just as
this paper was going to bed.
Although Patterson, who won election last Spring based on his riding
the protest vote against the board based on the loss of the West Hurley
School, did not have any specifics on the new committee, he did say
his committee’s first meeting would be largely organizational.
At the November 3 meeting, the board also rejected a bid received from
Barber Marketing, Inc. (dba BMI Supply) for “Head Block Beam Reconstruction”
tied to the creation of a new stage at the High School for the bid amount
of $176,240.00 and re-bid the project.
DEC-licensed hunting, fishing and camping guide and assistant Forest
Ranger, Hinkley’s hunted these woods all of his life. For the
past 15 years, he’s been the caretaker of the Winosook Club at
the crest of the Oliverea Valley, maintaining its 15 cabins, 800-some
acres and its pristine private lake halfway up Slide Mountain. It’s
a position he cherishes as much as the wilderness that surrounds him,
and where he’s raised his two boys now 17 and 9.
not just about hunting,” he began. “It’s more about
a love for nature, a love for the woods, the wildlife, and the natural
world we’re living in. My father was a real hunter, and he always
tried to nourish that with me. From the time I was a kid I learned everything
I could about the woods; the flowers, the birds. I cherish all the memories,
every moment my Dad and I were in the woods together. Our relationship
is so strong because of all the time we spent together.”
“For me hunting is an excuse to be out there,” Hinkley continued.
“You’re not going to get up at 3 AM to watch the spring
birds arrive. But if it’s turkey season that’s different,
because when you’re out there and you get to see the scarlet tanager
and everything else, you realize at the end of the season it’s
not the gobbler that matters, it’s the spring birds. I know it’s
hard for people to understand how you could love something so much and
then shoot it. The killing part is the worst part. That’s no fun
at all. Never was, never is. It’s something everybody fights with.
I hate death. When I kill something I feel so bad. I just have so much
respect for animals, and for what it takes for them to survive.”
“If you have it in your blood though, you do it. Hunters love
to see wildlife, to feel that connection. You want to get closer to
it..to touch it. But for most I think it’s really just to be out
there and to see the stuff you see. And that’s the spiritual dimension.
If you’re out there you see things. You know it was meant to be,
and that you were meant to be there to see it.”
A native of Roxbury, Hinkley comes from a family where hunting’s
always part of the fabric of life.
“My father was one of 12 kids, and we always went to my grandmother’s
for Thanksgiving,” he said. “I remember the guys that had
gotten their deer would always be ribbing the guys who hadn’t
yet. I guess I’ve been hunting small game since I was 9 or 10,
and deer from the day I could get my license. I hunted pretty steady
through high school, then for a graduation present I got a camera and
switched to wildlife photography for a while. But if it’s in your
Asked why he thinks hunting’s off so much locally in recent years,
Hinckley says, “the deer population is down, they like open fields,
edge habitat, and we just don’t have very much of it. And there’s
another factor too,” he added. “Years ago, people had more
time than they do now.” As for new management techniques like
“quality” or trophy deer hunting, he thinks they might be
worth trying though he’s concerned they might also bring “a
bit of an ugly frame of mind” to the woods.
“But the bears are a perfect example of why we need hunting to
curb the population” says Hinckley. “I think the turning
point came a few years ago when we had a really dry summer, and the
bears had to come down to the rivers. The cubs learned to feed around
human habitation and now they’re conditioned to it and they’re
teaching their cubs, same as they’ve been in the Adirondacks for
years. I don’t think it’s going to change now and go back
to being more of a wild population, unless you can eliminate the bears
that are conditioned to garbage and to bird feeders. I think that’s
something we need to do.”
“I thank God every day I was born here, raised here in this incredibly
beautiful part of the world. I’m so thankful I got to take my
boys out, hear the coyotes singing, listen to the owls. And yeah, I’m
afraid about what could happen to these mountains because of all the
greed, this huge development thing. I mean, what we have here is so
unique; once the wildness is gone, it’s gone forever. I don’t
hunt as much anymore as I used to. The older you get, the more you cherish
every day there is, the harder it is to hunt, at least for me.”