The Sierra Club’s Quest to Save the Mountain

http://oracle.newpaltz.edu/article.cfm?id=3728

By Christina Musso, Contributing Writer

Five years ago, a real estate developer came to Belleayre Mountain wanting to build a private resort in the Catskill Park in the New York City watershed and the constitutionally-protected borders.

The developer is “looking to develop the private resort less then 10 miles away from the Ashokan reservoir,” said Carolyn Zolas, the head of the New York City Chapter of the Sierra Club.

The private resort would be located right next to the public skiing and hiking area. The plans for the resort include adding more ski slopes for their guests, along with a golf course. The resort would be the size of 500 football fields.

Many local people were not as excited about it, and they began to protest. A campaign called Save the Mountain was created to help fight against the development.

“This plan, if it goes ahead, will turn public preserved land into private ruin,” said Donna Flayhan, an expert on public health.

The development plan has still not been resolved, five years later. Former Governor Eliot Spitzer created a Principle of Agreement contract that was supposed to please all parties, but not all parties in the Save the Mountain campaign signed onto it.

It wasn’t until the Sierra Club found out about the development, that the Save the Mountain campaign was rejuvenated,” Flayhan said. Now the Sierra Club is going full-throttle into the campaign to make sure that this resort is not built.

The biggest concern with this development project, according to the Save the Mountain campaign, is that it could cause pollution to the naturally filtered water. “A filtration plan will cost $30 billion,” Zolas said.

“New York City water is some of the purest public drinking water left in the world, because it comes from the Catskills, created by glaciers and nature, Flayhan said. “If the land is developed, the water will be polluted, not by terrorists, but by a developer.”

If that filtration system is put into place it could be the tax payers who are going to be paying for it. In addition, since this private resort would be so big, the layout for it would cause many trees and wildlife to be killed.

“We have to be able to protect this land from overdevelopment,” Rich Schaedle, chair of the Catskill Heritage Alliance, a local conservation group. “Once it’s gone, it’s gone. You’re not going to get it back,” he continued. “We need to protect it for our children and grandchildren for the future.”

Because this is such a huge issue, the Sierra Club has decided to show a movie at SUNY New Paltz to gain awareness. On Tuesday, April 29 they will show “The Unforeseen,” a film by Laura Dunn, produced by Terrance Malick and Robert Redford.

“The Unforeseen” is a film about a similar situation that happened in Texas where a real estate developer clashes with activists who want to preserve a local spring and the land surrounding it. The film will be followed by a panel discussion.

Those who attend the showing will find out about the devastation in Texas and how they can help.

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