Another Belleayre protest planned

This just in from the Coalition to Save Belleayre Mountain: Another rally opposing the 45 recent jobs cuts at the Ulster County ski resort is planned for noon on Monday.

Unlike the last Belleayre protest, which was held in Arkville three weeks ago and attracted several hundred people, this one will be held at the very gates of the ski resort itself. The online petition to reverse the job cuts has picked up several hundred more signatures since the last demonstration, so maybe the living, breathing protesters will multiply as well. 

The full press release about the protest is below:

Protest Rally Planned for Belleayre Mt. Jobs

“Don’t Mess With Belleayre” is message supporters will deliver.

December 21, 2010 -- Highmount, NY -- Congressman Maurice Hinchey will join members of the Coalition to Save Belleayre at a “Don’t Mess With Belleayre” rally on Monday, December 27. The noon event announced this week by Coalition Chair Joe Kelly will be held at the intersection of Rt. 28 and County Road 47 (also known as the access road to Belleayre) to continue protesting the cut of 48 permanent staff positions at the ski center. Hinchey, who was present at protests to save Belleayre in the 1980s, has long been a champion of the ski center. Organizers, who turned out more than 200 people for November rally, expect attendance at next week’s protest to top that number.

While no immediate closure of Belleayre Mt. is currently threatened, Kelly noted that the people whose jobs are being eliminated are experts in ski center operation who have led a successful Renaissance at the New York State owned and operated ski center. “Belleayre more than covers its cost of operation,” said Kelly. “It is a revenue generator for the state and that is due in no small measure, to the skills and talents of these staff members.” Kelly went on to note that he and other Belleayre Mt. supporters will not sit back quietly and watch Belleayre deteriorate as it did in the 1970s.

State Senator John J. Bonacic, another long-standing Belleayre Mt .supporter decried the job cuts in a November 17th statement posted to his website. "The DEC, by targeting Belleayre as harshly as they have, has shown misplaced economic priorities,” said the Senator. “Belleayre makes money for the State and is an asset that is the economic catalyst for our region. The State has made it their economic plan for the Catskills to be a place of outdoor recreation and high quality water.” Bonacic, who has garnered millions in funding for the ski center, added “… our region should not take a disproportionate hit in the outdoor tourism industry. To cut jobs at Belleayre will result in job losses for our small businesses throughout the region that depend on Belleayre for their livelihood.”

Since the layoffs were announced last month, Coalition members have garnered more than 3,500 names on a petition to the governor, demanding that the jobs be reinstated. The petition notes that Belleayre Mt. the linchpin for the economy of the Rt. 28 corridor in the Central Catskills. The tremendous number of visitors drawn to the region by the ski center support private sector businesses and encourage future capital investments. It points out that drastic staff reductions threaten the short term operations and the long term viability. Requiring Belleayre to absorb more than 34% of the work force reductions for the entire Department of Environmental Conservation suggests that the importance of this facility is not recognized. Kelly said that “while we understand the need for cost reductions in state operations we are certain a more equitable distribution of layoffs could be achieved.

The rally announcement comes in the same week that the Town of Olive joined the Town of Shandaken in passing a resolution opposing the cuts. Board member Bruce LaMonda who helped initiate the effort said “I feel the Belleayre Ski center is the core of the local economic well being of the Central Catskills. Eliminating jobs at this time is only prolonging the current recession locally and while money is being allotted for political pet projects saving peoples’ jobs should take priority.”

LaMonda said that the Olive resolution was sent to state and county officials who represent Belleayre Mt. including State Senators John Bonacic and William Larkin, State Assemblyman Kevin Cahill and to Fred Wadnola, Chairman of the Ulster County Legislature and Ulster County Executive Mike Hein.

“There is strength in numbers,” said the Coalition Chair, “and we will speak in one voice, with one message. ‘Don’t Mess With Belleayre!’” Kelly said skiers, staffers, local business people and other elected officials are all expected at the rally, which will kick off the next phase of the protest. “We want to get up to 10,000 signatures on our petition,” said Kelly, “and we want to let Governor Cuomo and the next Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation know that we just can’t afford to let Belleayre Mt. suffer this way. Too many people depend on it for economic survival.