Letter to the Editor: Taxpayers should not subsidize a private resort

Dear Editor:

Last week the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation released documents for review of the proposed Crossroads resort and plans for expansion at the Belleayre Mountain Ski Center (http://www.dec.ny.gov/press/90370.html). 

The plans for the Ski Center include alternatives that do not tie it in to the proposed resort. These alternatives cost less and return greater benefits to the public than the Full Build Out Alternative, estimated to cost $74 million. The Catskill Heritage Alliance is petitioning the State of New York to save money for taxpayers by pursuing these better and less expensive alternatives.

Instead of investing scarce public funds to purchase the Highmount Ski Center from private developer Crossroads Ventures and build lifts and cut trails there and on the western slope of Belleayre to allow private guests of Dean Gitter’s resort to “ski in and ski out” of lodging units, the best investment to accommodate more skiers and to retain Belleayre Ski Center’s beloved “family friendly” character is the expansion of lodges and other skier facilities and services.

In contrast, two alternative proposals expand the Ski Center at far less cost and with much greater benefit to the public. The East Alternative offers new sustained expert terrain near Cathedral Glen on land already within the Forest Preserve, and the Core Alternative provides a renovated and expanded base area and satellite lodges up-mountain; upgraded and enhanced food services and retail spaces; a modernized and well-stocked rental department; a new learning center; new and safer high speed lifts; energy efficient snowmaking equipment; and green, LEED-certified construction with the use of solar energy when possible. These alternatives allow us as taxpayers to save money while greatly improving the satisfaction of the wide range of skiers who enjoy the Ski Center. 

The Catskill Heritage Alliance also endorses continued investments to ensure that, as the warming trend associated with climate change shortens winters and makes winter recreation less sustainable, the Ski Center remains a destination and a driver of the local economy. Specifically, we endorse plans for the Ski Center to construct more trails that can be used for all-season sports (cross country skiing, mountain biking, hiking, horseback riding) and that link to the trail network of the 1200-acre Big Indian Parcel adjacent to the Ski Center’s existing footprint. We strongly support the continued use of the Ski Center’s lodges and grounds for cultural events, festivals, educational courses and seminars, private events, and conferences.

Please visit our website (www.catskillheritage.org) for more information about the upcoming review and please sign our petition to build a better Belleayre Mountain Ski Center without having taxpayers subsidize a private resort (http://tinyurl.com/d4bj6k6). 

Kathy Nolan, Chair
Catskill Heritage Alliance