Kingston Daily Freeman, July 7, 2008, "Can't We all Get Along? Editorial about tourism

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Can't we all get along?
WHEN it comes to tourism, some lawmakers seem to forget that a rising tide will list all boats. For a time in the Hudson Valley and Catskills, it was every county for itself. Tourism directors, under the gun from the elected officials who hired them, pretty much did their own thing, promoted parochially and viewed the county just over the border (or across the river) as competition.

That began to change in the '90s, when IBM's significant exodus from the valley prompted the Cuomo administration to explore economic alternatives, tourism key among them. Regional cooperation began to grow.

But that didn't mean there was no more "we" and "them" in regional tourism, witness the on-going squabble between Ulster and Greene counties regarding Belleayre Ski Center.

It started in Greene, where owners of privately owned ski resorts Hunter and Windham were getting antsy as the state poured resources into its ski center at Belleayre in neighboring Ulster. That got the attention of Greene lawmakers and they screamed foul, claiming Belleayre was at an unfair advantage. That, in turn, motivated state legislators to carry a bill calling for the formation of a blue-ribbon panel to study the impact of state-run outdoor recreational facilities (skiing and golf among them) on the private sector. The legislation awaits Gov. Paterson's signature.

Not to be outdone, Ulster County Legislature Chairman David Donaldson, D-Kingston, told Greene (and the state) to back off. He went so far as to call on Ulster residents to boycott Hunter and Windham's summer activities - and maybe even wintertime skiing, as well.

"I say we need to take a stance here in Ulster County," Donaldson declared. "We need to stick together and defend Belleayre against these unjust criticisms."

Sounds a little like Davy Crockett protecting the Alamo.

LET'S TRY to sort this thing out:

*Providing low-cost public facilities is part of what governments do. New York has a network of ski resorts and golf courses. Those without the wherewithal or opportunity to recreate at private facilities have a less-expensive alternative.

*It wasn't all that long ago when Belleayre was in serious trouble, its infrastructure in significant need of repair. A grass roots coalition formed, led by the tireless Joseph Kelly of Long Island, and Belleayre's plight found its way to Albany's radar screens. Pushed by state lawmakers - perhaps most prominently, Sen. John Bonacic, R-Mount Hope - Belleayre has improved dramatically. And other upgrades to the area could be on the way, particularly if any part of private sector developer Dean Gitter's vision ever becomes reality.

*Ironically (given his aforementioned support of Belleayre),

Bonacic and Senate colleague William Larkin, R-Cornwall, also are under fire from Donaldson for supporting the bill pending in Albany: "You need to protect the residents you actually represent," Donaldson said.

HERE'S where Donaldson loses us:

"If this legislation becomes law, it calls into question the state's right to provide low-cost recreation for its citizens," he said. Are they going to study the impact of Jones Beach? Bethpage Golf Course? State campgrounds? And how about local parks, pools and the like that receive state funding? When they finish studying the impact of state recreation outdoors, will they then study the impact of the state university system on private colleges?"

Could be. But so what? What's wrong with some scholarly analysis?

"We have absolute faith that, not only will Belleayre come out smelling like a rose, but that maybe it will teach the Democrats, who have ignored it, the importance of it," said Bonacic spokesman Langdon Chapman.

We agree with that, at least the first part. We're confident Belleayre can withstand the scrutiny. As for the politics, Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-Hurley, and Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, D-Kingston, haven't exactly been strangers to Belleayre. But this is an election year, and Donaldson did target only two Republicans, although all Democrats in the Assembly (save for two, Cahill one of them) voted in favor of the blue-ribbon commission.

BUT HERE'S the real point - and it takes us back to where we started in bemoaning parochial approaches to tourism.

In Langdon's words, Belleayre is "a driver for the economic and skiing vitality in the whole (emphasis ours) Catskill region."

There's plenty of room for Belleayre, Hunter and Windham to thrive. There's room for visitors to Ulster to find their way to Greene and the other way around.

Boycotts of one county or the other are ill-advised.

A rising tide lifts all boats.

Link to full article is here:

©Daily Freeman 2008

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