Businesses ask DEC boss for Belleayre Mtn. meeting

By Jay Braman Jr.
The man who has been described as the final authority over proposed drastic budget cuts to the state-owned Belleayre Ski Center has been invited to visit the facility and the region next month for a quick lesson on the local economy, and what would happen to it if those cuts were allowed.
This is the latest ripple effect from news two weeks ago that Belleayre faces a difficult season this year due to budget cuts. While no specific figures have been released, staffers and local officials have heard of 181 job cuts, with fewer trails and fewer chair lifts operating. Amenities such as the ski school and the nursery, which is a form of day care for infants while moms and dads hit the slopes of the family based facility, are also slated for closure and/or severely scaled back operation.
At a meeting of the Belleayre Region Lodging and Tourism Association at Belleayre’s main lodge Wednesday, Republican Senator John Bonacic, who represents the region, told the association’s anxious ranks that he is working with the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to ensure that Belleayre remains the “economic engine” of the Route 28 Corridor.
Toward that end, Bonacic has asked DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis to come see for himself what would happen if Belleayre is allowed to falter.
Bonacic, who asked Grannis to come to the area in October, said, “Commissioner Grannis is an avid outdoorsman and someone who cares a great deal about our environment. No cuts to his department are easy for him. I want to impress upon him though that when you are cutting Belleayre, you are truly, in an already weakened economy, hurting thousands of people.”
The timeline for any decisions about the ski center’s budget remain unclear, especially given the news that Gov. David Paterson is warning he may need to call the legislature back into session before Election Day to make further cuts to the state budget amid growing troubles on Wall Street. The governor is expected to make that decision by the end of this week.
Meanwhile Belleayre’s plight has caught the attention of United States Senator Charles Schumer.
In a prepared statement Schumer said the ski center is bursting with economic benefits for Ulster County and cannot be allowed to fall to the wayside.
“I hope that the DEC will heed the community’s call and commit to a full ski season at Belleayre so that we can keep the jobs and revenue generated by the ski mountain,” Schumer wrote. “It would be a severe blow to the region should the ski center not operate for a complete season….the benefits that would be achieved by cutting operating costs at Belleayre Mountain would pale in comparison to the economic turmoil it would create in the region. I cannot overstate the significance that Belleayre Mountain Ski Center has on the local economy.”
Wednesday night members of that economy, the Belleayre Region Lodging Tourism Association, talked about the need to swell its ranks in order to have a stronger voice in Albany whenever their livelihood is in peril.
The association unites businesses and organizations that rely heavily on visitor traffic at the ski center. For more information on the benefits of becoming a member call 800 431-4555 or 254-4650. Information is also available at www.catskillhighpeaks.com.