State Senator John J. Bonacic (R/I/C - Mount Hope), a longtime advocate for Belleayre Mountain Ski Center, said he opposes the Department of Environmental Conservation’s recent plan to scale back development of the Ski Center.
Bonacic, whose actions have led to nearly $20 million in State investment in Belleayre in the past eight years, said the DEC is wrong to remove the trail development plans on the East side.
"Unit Management Plans (UMPs) are exactly that - plans. They are rarely, if ever fully implemented or fully funded in one year. The State has made the decision to be in the ski business. The State has reaffirmed that decision in 1999 and 2000. If we are going to be in the ski business, we ought to do it well. If the DEC is now claiming that we need the money in the budget to fund every element of a UMP, then that means there will be no long term planning for the growth of our parks and recreation system in the Catskills – and that is bad public policy," Bonacic said.
Since 2001, Bonacic, a member of the DEC’s budget committee in the Senate, has worked to secure annual investments of between $750,000 and $5 million for Belleayre into each year’s State budget. Those investments, along with dynamic new leadership, have created new ski trails, a new high speed "quad" chair lift, and most recently, over $12 million has been set aside for the reconstruction of the Discovery Lodge.
Given Belleayre’s success, nearby Catskills ski areas have complained that Belleayre is cutting into their profits. "As far as I am concerned, Belleayre ought to be reducing its ticket prices in an effort to bring more people into the sport of skiing and help the Catskill’s economy. I believe that if Belleayre continues to be successful, it brings more skiers into the sport and region, and all ski resorts will prosper," Bonacic said.
The Senator said he felt the DEC was "giving in to the complaints of nearby ski areas rather than embracing the public mission of a publicly owned ski facility. By scaling back the UMP, we are saying that we want to be in the ski business, but only if it doesn’t offend anyone. Either you are in the ski business or you not," Bonacic said.
The Constitution was amended to allow a build-out of 25 miles of trails. That was over fifty years ago. "Two miles of trails per year is not too much. Let’s finish this build-out of the East side, which happens to be the best skiing portion of the Belleayre Mountain area, and complete the mission that the voters of this State authorized a half-century ago," concluded Senator Bonacic.