State Senator John J. Bonacic, visited Belleayre Mountain ski center on Wednesday and urged the DEC to ensure that the ski center would be able to continue to grow and be the "economic engine” which drives tourism along the Route 28 corridor. The Senator stated that he strongly opposed efforts by the state to diminish operations at Belleayre for the upcoming season.
“Right now families are deciding where to buy their ski passes for the upcoming season, and where to rent ski homes for a weekend, week, or season. Right now business owners are deciding what rates to charge for lodging. We cannot have Belleayre held hostage while people in Albany decide what trails will be open and what lifts will be running. A full, strong, operating Belleayre is an economic force for the Catskills and creates a positive tax flow for the State and our region. Uncertainty at Belleayre means less jobs in the Catskills and less revenue for Ulster County, Delaware County, and New York State,” Senator Bonacic said.
In the past eight years, Senator Bonacic has successfully secured approximately $20 million for numerous capital improvements to Belleayre. “One of New York State government’s great governmental successes is what has been done at Belleayre Mountain. To reward the success with budget cuts simply makes no sense,” Bonacic said.
Since 1995, Belleayre's skier visits have climbed by more than 100,000. In fact, Senator Bonacic was at Belleayre on Wednesday to review the progress of the new adaptive building for disabled skiers. The adaptive building allows skiers with disabilities to pick up equipment Belleayre provides for free and ski in and out of the building directly onto the slopes. Senator Bonacic secured $75,000 for that building two years ago, and this year secured yet another $750,000 for more capital improvements at Belleayre.
For the past few days, rumors have spread around the northern Catskills that Belleayre either would not open or would open in some diminished capacity. "I received an e-mail from one constituent which I thought set the tone for what Belleayre means to the people of this region," Bonacic said. The constituent wrote that she is counting on the upcoming October Festival to pay her heating bill for the season. "When government takes away opportunity instead of creates opportunity, it is not doing its job," Bonacic said.
Senator Bonacic also indicated he had invited DEC Commissioner Peter Grannis to visit Belleayre in October. "Commissioner Grannis is an avid outdoorsman and someone who cares a great deal about our environment. No cuts to his department are, I am sure 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 Senator also indicated he was heartened to see some of the region’s other elected officials talking about Belleayre, but added “talk is cheap. This year the Assembly proposed eliminating Belleayre from the Environmental Protection Fund. It’s nice that other representatives are talking about Belleayre but they need to start directing money at Belleayre the way the State Senate has if they truly want to demonstrate they care.”