Town seeking extension of Belleayre Mt. lands

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By Jay Braman Jr.
The Shandaken Town Board has asked New York State to make the 1,200 acres it bought last year from developer Dean Gitter into an extension of Belleayre Mountain Ski Center.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is poised to decide how to classify the parcel, which the town calls “Belleayre Ridge,” and has four classifications from which to choose.
One classification is called wilderness and it is the most restrictive. The other end of the spectrum is called intensive use, which town officials say is how Belleayre Mountain Ski Center and the Pine Hill Lake are classified.

The 1,200 acres abuts both of these, and according to Councilman Jack Jordan, there’s already plenty of wilderness in town. “In our borders we have a lot of wilderness,” he said, adding that the best use of this parcel should be considered from an economic standpoint. “Belleayre being intensive use is the economic engine for the county.”

He feels that Belleayre should be given the option to expanding eastward and an intensive use gives it that option.

Kathy Nolan, executive director of Catskill Mountainkeeper, disagreed. Nolan felt that a better plan would be to only inform DEC of what activities the town would like on the land and not request any one classification. As classifications go, she said that some of the 1,200 acres could be intensive use, another portion wilderness.

Ultimately the board unanimously called for the entire 1,200 acres to be intensive use.
If the DEC agrees, the land would still be part of the Forever Wild distinction within the Catskill Forest Preserve but would see more recreational activity allowed than under other classifications.
Supervisor Rob Stanley said that the Town of Shandaken is limited in its development opportunities to improve the economy and that expansion of recreational uses is essential to the economy of the town in which nearly 85 percent of the land is publicly owned.

“The parcel has a relatively flat ridge line and existing road networks that have been built and maintained; which the town believes would be an asset in providing a relatively accessible and minimal physically challenging area for use by the broadest base of individuals and families from the State of New York, as well as visitors from abroad and town residents which would assist in the further development of the town, and therefore the state’s economy,” said Stanley.

The 1,200 acres will become part of the NYS Forest Preserve guaranteeing that this land will be protected while allowing for activities such as mountain biking, cross-country skiing and the proper trail maintenance for these activities.

DEC will prepare a plan for the property and hold public hearings on that plan.