Senator Seward tours Belleayre
By Jay Braman Jr.
New York State Senator James Seward (R-51st) took a tour of the Belleayre Mountain Ski Center Tuesday to get acquainted with both the facility and the local officials in the area.
Seward’s 51st Senate District is changing shape in January and will then include the towns of Shandaken in Ulster County and Middletown in Delaware County where Belleayre is located.
The senator, who was first elected to the senate in 1986 and is up for re-election this year, said that he asked for a chance to view the premises and discuss the challenges currently facing the ski center.
Has some history
Seward is not unfamiliar with state-owned Belleayre. Four years ago he called for a probe into what he described as unfair competition in the state’s outdoor recreation industry, pointing out that Belleayre was offering cut rate admission prices that nearby privately owned ski centers like Hunter and Windham mountains could not match.
Seward’s current district formation includes Greene County, home to those two private ski centers. But come January, Hunter and Windham will no longer be within the 51st District’s borders.
On Thursday Seward said it is now time to look toward the future.
“There’s been tension in the past….but going forward I hope we can promote together skiing in the Catskills,” he said.
Seward, who will be on the ballot this November, called Belleayre, “One of the biggest economic drivers in the Ulster/Delaware Catskills,” and said that he will support it accordingly.
He said that right now he and others are waiting for the Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA) to take Belleayre over from the State Department of Environmental Conservation.
The senator added that the transition from the state to ORDA’s control, happening slowly but surely, is one big reason for his visit.
“I wanted to become fully immersed in that issue,” he said.
ORDA reps here
Also on hand at Belleayre Tuesday were Joe Kelly and John Parete. The two were named to the ORDA Board just last month to represent the Belleayre. Kelly was Chairman of the Coalition to Save Belleayre until joining the ODRA Board. Parete is an Ulster County Legislator.
Also at Belleayre Tuesday to meet with Seward were Tom White, newly appointed chairman of the Coalition to Save Belleayre, Mel Litoff, executive director of the Belleayre Music Festival, and high-ranking members of Belleayre Ski Center’s administration.
Seward said that he will join those that are calling for completion of the changing of the guard at Belleayre.
“I will be urging the ORDA/DEC transition to move faster,” he said. “I know it is hot out now, but another ski season is right around the corner.”