Superintendent post still vacant at Belleayre

By Jay Braman Jr.
It has been more than a week since the superintendent of state-owned Belleayre Mountain Ski Center was unceremoniously dismissed from his position, but there are no plans as of today to place anyone else in charge of the facility on an interim basis and the new management team slated to take over the day-to-day operations is still nowhere in sight.

Staffers at Belleayre, which is located on Highmount in the Town of Shandaken, said Thursday that the warm weather activities at the mountain are continuing as planned and that department supervisors are running things instead of a superintendent.

The Belleayre Beach, a popular swimming and boating spot at the base of Belleayre in Pine Hill, was open for business on the Memorial Day weekend, and remains on schedule to open full time for the summer starting June 16.

Plus, the long-running Belleayre Music Festival will go on this summer as planned, according to Mel Litoff, the executive director of the festival. “We just put the tent up yesterday, he said Thursday.

Many in charge
Litoff reports that although there is no interim superintendent, a group of department heads, which includes Joan Merwin, Tommy Tarr, Joe Straus, Dennis Ficheria and Phil Rion, have been working well with the music festival as they prepare for a season that will bring the likes of The Spinners, Josh Turner, Christine Ebersole and others to the facility.

On May 22 the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced that Belleayre Superintendent Tony Lanza had been dismissed, but would not reveal the reason for the action, except to say that the agency possessed “information that warrants Mr. Lanza’s dismissal.”
This week Lanza supporters, like Litoff, stood shoulder to shoulder with the man that many see as being personally responsible for the increasing success of the facility over the past decade.

But at the same time, they would like to know the charges against their friend and colleague.
“We all miss Tony, Litoff said. “He breathed life and excitement into this arena. I still don’t know what he is accused of.”

Similar sentiments came from Joe Kelly on Thursday.
Kelly, president of the Coalition to Save Belleayre, said that he, like everyone else, still has no idea why Lanza was removed, but said that Lanza was a superior superintendent while on the job for over a decade.

“Look, Tony took over when there were only 70,000 skier visits and a few years later we had 170,000 skier visits. That speaks for itself,” Kelly said.

In the meantime, Kelly waits for the Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA) to come to Belleayre and take over as announced.

ORDA, which already operates the state’s two other ski centers, Whiteface and Gore in the Adirondacks, has been given the task of operating Belleayre. With summer fast approaching there is still no sign of ORDA.

John Lundin, a spokesman for ORDA, said that the authority is still working out the details of a memorandum of understanding between ORDA and the DEC and that there is still no clear timeline for the transition.

Kelly said that even though it is still only late spring, time is wasting.
“We have a ski season coming up. Tickets should be selling now. The coalition would like the transition to ORDA’s management to happen faster.”