State Department of Environmental Conservation officials and the new management at Belleayre Mountain presented their $74 million plans to build out the region’s oldest ski area a week ago, Wednesday, May 22. A crowd of nearly 200 watched and listened intently to a lightly-detailed slide presentation highlighting all the goodies tied to a “full build out” plan that includes complete renovation of the tattered Discovery Lodge everyone was in, new lifts, trails and additional lodges…plus brief mentions of the $400 million private resort tied to that option.
Alternatives discussed in passing, similar to their treatment in the state’s massive new Unit Management Plan (UMP) whose hundreds of pages were being summarized Wednesday night, tended to be glossed over. Of those plans without a private resort tie-in, one involved no big changes to the lodge, and less new trails; another was tied to development of trails to the east of the current ski area, where no engineering drawings had been created because of that alternative’s environmental and building challenges. The no build option was mentioned as just that…with no deep explanations.
Audience members were asked to hold all comments, and questions, until this week’s May 29 (too late for our deadline) set of public hearings. It was noted that the handful of DEC and Belleayre employees on hand would answer questions if they could after the main presentation, when people were invited to mingle among a number of poster-sized drawings, maps and other presentation elements around the room.
There was a slight whiff of defeatist attitude around the room. Longtime supporters of the ski mountain in general, and the Belleayre Resort in particular, complained among themselves when DEC official Bill Rudge announced that his agency would be extending the review period during which comments can be submitted regarding both the DEC UMP plans, and the revised resort environmental impact statement, to July 24 (from June 24). How much longer, they asked. Opponents of the resort, and the state’s full build out plans embracing it as a development partner, spoke among themselves quietly.
CHA opposes full build out
Later, each side released statements. The Catskill Heritage Alliance trumpeted the May 29 hearing, which DEC officials said on May 22 would be kept open “until everyone had a chance to address their concerns” while urging all to also submit written comments, and listed both where to send written comments and a list of “talking points.”
“…the Full Build Out Alternative costs more and returns fewer benefits to the public than any of the other proposed Alternatives. We oppose the Full Build Out Alternative because it would invest scarce public funds to benefit the proposed Belleayre Resort at Catskill Park by purchasing the Highmount Ski Center from private developer Crossroads Ventures and building lifts and cutting trails there and on the western slope of Belleayre to allow private guests of the resort to ‘ski in and ski out’ of lodging units,” CHA said. “We also oppose the Full Build Out Alternative because it calls for expanded lifts, trails, and snowmaking to support a ‘comfortable carrying capacity’ at the BMSC of 9,000 skiers per day, a figure nearly double the peak historic number of skiers/day. The historic peak number of 4,500 to 6,000 skiers occurs on a few holiday weekends in some years. Even if demand for such a huge increase in skier visits exists, the best investment to accommodate more skiers and to retain the Ski Center’s beloved ‘family friendly’ character is the expansion of lodges and other skier facilities and services rather than the construction of new lifts for trails built primarily for the private resort.”