Petition Calls For Funding For Belleayre Ski Center
Snow is accumulating on Belleayre Mountain in the Catskills, but a group of the ski center’s supporters wants to see funding pile up as well.
A group of residents and business owners comprising Friends of Belleayre Mountain posted a petition on change.org, calling on New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to ensure that Belleayre Mountain Ski Center in Ulster County is among the funding priorities this budget cycle. Their petition was prompted by Cuomo’s January 23 announcement that the state will invest up to $20 million for major upgrades at Whiteface and Gore Mountains in the Adirondacks. Delaware County resident and Belleayre ski patrol member Rosina Montana is part of Friends of Belleayre Mountain.
“The Unit Management Plan is what drives all of the state-owned facilities. And it took quite a few years to get ours up to date. And since it was put into effect in 2015, the bottom line is, show us the money, fund us,” Montana says. “We haven’t seen any of the projected things that need to be done for Belleayre.”
The petitioners have not stated a specific amount of funding, but do want what they call the economic engine of the area to receive funding for a wide range of improvements, including for safety. Montana says ski lifts need to be replaced, for example. In fact, replacing and adding ski lifts is part of the approved $74 million Unit Management Plan. The plan also calls for adding 16 ski trails, constructing new parking lots, and acquiring the lands of the former Highmount Ski Center. Chris Ericson is a ski instructor at Belleayre and one of the petition’s originators.
“We’re not asking for lots and lots of money. We’re just asking for the amount of money that it takes to bring us up to current standards,” Ericson says. “And right now, it’s unfortunate the infrastructure of that mountain is not in a great place.”
Ericson, who also serves as Orange County deputy health commissioner, says funding for Belleayre will help draw tourists from the New York City metropolitan region and support local communities.
“In giving some funding and this need, this boost in the arm that Belleayre needs will help all the resorts and help the entire economy in that region,” says Ericson.
Democratic Assemblyman Kevin Cahill says that when the legislature allowed for the Olympic Regional Development Authority takeover of Belleayre in 2012, there was an understanding that the tourist destination in Catskill Park would be maintained.
“And that was actually the agreement that was promised when ORDA took over for the Department of Environmental Conservation in managing Belleayre Mountain,” Cahill says. “The promise was made that the resources would be there to make sure that Belleayre was able to continue to provide the services and the conditions that people from the greater metropolitan area and this community have come to expect.”
State Budget Division spokesman Morris Peters, in an emailed statement, says, “The Budget includes $12.5 million for ORDA facilities, including Belleayre, and we’re currently working on a comprehensive plan to provide additional resources to all three ORDA ski facilities.” Cahill is looking for specific Belleayre funding in the budget.
“We looked for funding for Belleayre as we do every year. And, as is the case every year, the governor’s budget does not provide specific funding for the capital project needs of Belleayre,” says Cahill. “In years past, we’ve insisted that it be put back in keeping with the promise that was made to the community. And, in years past, we’ve been successful in having money put back into the budget. This is not the same as the $74 million development proposal that some are advocating for. This is really the basic stuff that’s necessary just to keep Belleayre functioning.”
The petitioners praise Cuomo for boosting tourism statewide but want to ensure Belleayre is part of the effort. As of Thursday morning, the petition was some 200 shy of its 1,500 signature goal.