Roger Wall to ORDA: Paws off Belleayre

Photo of snowboards at Belleayre by Flickr user Steven Kreuser. Published under Creative Commons license.

Should the Belleayre Mountain ski center, currently run by the New York State Department of Conservation, be turned over to a quasi-private authority?

The Catskill Heritage Alliance's Roger Wall has been a vocal critic of the idea. Yesterday, he had an op-ed in the Albany Times-Union laying out the case against turning Belleayre over to the Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA). An excerpt:

The Catskills' combination of forest preserve and New York City watershed is unique. Our reservoirs supply drinking water to 9 million downstate residents. Our mountains are not "Olympian." They attract artists as often as athletes. ORDA is predominantly a northern Adirondack, Olympic-centric organization, with only one board member representing Gore and none from the Catskills.

Would ORDA preserve and promote Belleayre as a rustic, affordable, family-friendly area?

How many skiers would abandon Belleayre if ORDA raised the price of lift tickets ($54 last year) to those of Gore and Whiteface (about $75)?

Would ORDA understand and serve local businesses along the Route 28 corridor?

Would an ORDA-run Belleayre be a third-tier southern revenue stream supporting Lake Placid?

Could ORDA's bonding authority open a back door to using public money to finance the private Belleayre resort?

There are more questions than answers, here -- but the worry that Belleayre's needs won't be high on ORDA's priority list is shared by many locals living in the shadow of Highmount. (On the other hand, the ski center hasn't exactly been the DEC's first priority either -- last winter, when budget cuts loomed at the DEC, a third of the job cuts fell on Belleayre.)

For more on the proposal to turn Belleayre over to ORDA (both pro and con), see our in-depth feature story from June 8: The future of Belleayre. Also, here's some video we took of Ulster County executive Mike Hein talking about Belleayre at a recent town meeting in Hardenburgh.