We, the undersigned concerned citizens, petition the State of New York to save money for New York State taxpayers during proposed expansions at the Belleayre Mountain Ski Center (BMSC) by choosing one of the better and less expensive proposed Alternatives rather than pursuing a Full Build Out, estimated to cost $74 million.
As presented in the April 2013 Draft Unit Management Plan/Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the BMSC, 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.
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.
In addition, we oppose the Full Build Out Alternative because it ignores widely agreed upon predictions about the effects of climate change on winter recreational tourism. NYSERDA’s 2011 “ClimAID Report” concludes that by mid-century, “expected annual reduction of ski-season length for three major ski regions in New York (Western, Northeastern and Southeastern) are expected to be in the range of 12 to 28 percent. Another report, “Confronting Climate Change in the U.S. Northeast: A Report of the Northeast Climate Impacts Assessment,” predicts that ski areas in southeastern New York are highly vulnerable within the next several decades. When climate data are so much in agreement about the future of winter recreation, it is unwise public policy to invest heavily in the construction of trails that will cost more to sustain (through greater snowmaking) for fewer and fewer days each year and for fewer and fewer skiers as the population turns to other activities.
In contrast, we strongly ENDORSE the three other expansion Alternatives set forth in the Draft Unit Management Plan/DEIS. The Core, West, and East Alternatives cost less and concentrate more on upgrading and streamlining the design of the existing layout. The East Alternative, in particular, offers new sustained expert terrain near Cathedral Glen on land already within the Forest Preserve. These Alternatives allow the state to save money while greatly improving the satisfaction of the wide range of skiers who enjoy the BMSC.
We also strongly ENDORSE the principles of the Core Alternative: a renovated and expanded base area and satellite lodges up-mountain, upgraded food services and retail spaces and choices, 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.
Further, we strongly ENDORSE investing in BMSC’s future to ensure that it will remain a destination and a driver of the local economy as the warming trend associated with climate change shortens winter and makes winter recreation less sustainable. Specifically, we endorse plans for BMSC 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 BMSC’s existing footprint and that can also tie in to the proposed regional rail trail along the Ulster-Delaware Rail Bed. We endorse the use of the lodges and grounds of BMSC for cultural events, festivals, educational courses and seminars, private events, and conferences.
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