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Belleayre Mountain Expansion Draws Plenty Of Mixed Opinions

Belleayre (NYSkiBlog.com)Lines are already being drawn in New York's Catskill Mountains on a proposed five-year, $74 million expansion of Belleayre Mountain, and another on its adjoining property

Supporters point to a median income below $20,000 in nearby Middletown as proof that the economy needs to be jump-started, and they see an enhanced ski center experience, together with the $400 million Belleayre Resort at Catskill Park, as potential saviors. The N.Y. Department of Environmental Conservation, which retains jurisdiction in Belleayre’s development since the ski and ride center is in the state Forest Preserve, said 300 new jobs could be created and visits to the facility in the shadow of New York City could double.

The management of Belleayre was turned over to the Olympic Regional Development Authority in Lake Placid last spring. State-run ORDA manages all of the village’s 1980 Olympic venues, including Whiteface Mountain. It later added Gore Mountain in North Creek to its portfolio, and now Belleayre.

DEC told the Kingston Daily Freeman that $7 million to $11 million could be infused into the local economy in and around Highmount each year if the ambitious resort concept were to develop.

In the meantime, ORDA is mandated by the state to develop a Unit Management Plan every five years for all of its venues. With Belleayre, the newspaper reported that ORDA – essentially following instructions - proposes to upgrade two existing ski lifts, create another 16 trails, install three parking lots, expand the Discovery and Sunset lodges and construct the Tomahawk Lodge. Plans also include an information booth, a salt-storage building and the creation of an additional snow-making pond.

The recent news, however, brings to the surface the irritation felt by private ski operators, who feel that state ski centers operate with a financial safety net. Big players such as Windham and Hunter mountains, as well as smaller sites like nearby Plattekill, have long maintained that state government does not belong in ski area management.

"We don’t see spending taxpayer money on an expansion with a questionable return on investment as a level playing field," Chip Seamans, Windham Mountain president and general manager, told SnoCountry.com.

Some 300 people attended a recent public hearing on the development issue. Most appeared to be in favor of the on and off hill developments, but environmental concerns were also heard at the meeting, as green groups see negative impact on wetlands.

The Belleayre Resort project, to be built by Crossroads Ventures, includes one or two hotels and a golf course among other amenities.

As is the case in similar projects, DEC has a public comment period. This one has been extended to July 24.

Photo: Belleayre Mountain (NYSkiBlog.com)


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