New York State's "Other" Mountains and Park - The Catskills
Apr 08 '03 (Updated Apr 23 '08)
LINK IS HERE:
|Have you heard of the Catskill Mountains? They are the home of the real Woodstock, the land where Rip Van Winkle slept for years, the Mountains first seen by Henry Hudson on his maiden voyage up the Hudson River, a vacation destination for many downstate New Yorkers, home to some of the first grand resorts in the country, and in some ways, a wilderness that's only about 2 hours north of New York City.
The Catskills are often lost in the shuffle of New York State, which is, in many ways, so many different things. The first thing someone thinks of when they hear New York is of course, New York City. But that's not fair either. Mention “mountains” and “New York” and most people will probably think of the Adirondack Park in the northern portion of the state.
Unless you’re from the area, or you have had a reason to be in the Catskills, you probably haven’t heard of them, or might have some faint idea that there are some mountains south of Albany but north of New York City.
I grew up in the Catskills so I should know. My parents and I lived in the Hudson Valley, but we have a weekend home the Northeastern Catskills, right near the stunning 2000 foot to 3000 foot escarpment that marks the boundary between the Catskills and the Hudson Valley. I was at that home just about every weekend from the time I was born, until I went away to college. I lived there full time when I was a forest ranger in the Catskills and since I’ve been working in Maine and now Massachusetts, every chance I get, I’m back there.
Maybe I’m biased, but I haven’t found an area that hits me the way that the Catskills do yet and I’ve been to plenty of mountain ranges around the Northeast and the rest of the country. Sure, New Hampshire and Maine have higher mountains with stunning alpine areas, the Adirondacks in northern New York are larger, same with the Greens in Vermont, there’s the Berkshires in Massachusetts too, but the Catskills have a certain charm and mystique that I think is almost indescribable and makes them so very special.
I’m going to focus my review mostly on the Northern Catskills, those mountains and areas that are mostly within Greene County and Ulster Country, which is where most of my experience (and mountains) are.
Where are the Catskills?
For some simple geography, the Catskill Park is about 50 miles southwest of Albany and about 150 miles north of New York City. To the east the mountains are bounded by the Hudson River Valley and to the west they gently taper out into gently rolling terrain. The largest concentration of the highest peaks and rugged terrain is in the Northern portion of the mountains, but the highest peak, Slide Mountain at 4,204 feet is located in what would be considered the Southern Catskills. There are also several other higher peaks located near Slide including Wittenberg and Cornell Mountains.
The Mountains Themselves
Want some geology speak? The Catskills really aren’t mountains in the truest sense of the word. Millions of years ago there was a great mountain range along the east coast of the US (today’s Appalachians are the basement remnants of those mountains) and as those mountains eroded over time, the debris flowed westward out across New York and Pennsylvania. Over time the eastern mountains eroded and the debris from them was buried further, and eventually then uplifted. So in a sense, the Catskill Mountains are really just an eroded plateau.
One of the most striking features of the Catskills is their eastern escarpment. This is where the rocks of the Catskills end, and the Hudson Valley begins. With the Hudson River at sea level (0 feet), the mountains rise up in a wall that is 2000 to over 3000 feet in height. Driving in the Hudson Valley – this imposing wall greets you to the Catskills.
To the west, the mountains slowly decrease in height and eventually the terrain becomes flatter and flatter – there is no great escarpment in the western Catskills.
The roughest and wildest terrain is in the northeast Catskills, which include the Schoharie valleys along with the Devil’s Path Range, the Blackhead Range and several other smaller ranges of mountains.
The Catskills have few lakes (except for New York City’s reservoirs) and most mountains are very steeply sloping with frequent lines of cliffs as you travel up the mountains. There are some spectacular waterfalls though, Kaaterskill Falls, which is the highest waterfall in New York State is located just south of North and South Lake in the Northeastern Catskills.
The Catskill Park
The Catskill Park was created in 1885 to protect New York City’s water supplies (many of the city’s reservoirs are in the Catskills with underground aqueducts running water southward to the city), and to provide outdoor recreational activities for the public. All public lands in the park are protected by the “Forever Wild” clause in the State constitution:
"The lands of the state, now owned or hereafter acquired, constituting the forest preserve as now fixed by law, shall be forever kept as wild forest lands. They shall not be leased, sold or exchanged, or be taken by any corporation, public or private, nor shall the timber thereon be sold, removed or destroyed . . ."
It’s interesting to note that New York State is the only state that offers constitutional protection to the public’s lands within the Catskill and Adirondack Parks. These lands cannot be developed (without an amendment to the State Constitution), cannot be sold and must be left in a “forever wild” state in perpetuity for future generations. These lands are known as “Forest Preserve.”
About half of the Catskill Park is publicly owned, the other half is privately owned, thus like the Adirondack Park, the Catskills are one of the few “parks” that is a mix of private and public lands.
This clause however, has been interpreted to mean that trails can be built and thus the Catskills have an extensive hiking trail system. Some peaks still remain trailless, but no matter what your skill and physical condition, you can find a hike that will suit you in the Catskills.
All public land is open to the public for hiking, camping, fishing and hunting. Private land access is variable and it depends on the landowner. However, most trailheads are located on public land, so as long as you stay on marked trails, you will not run into any problems.
You can camp anywhere in the Forest Preserve so long as you are at least 150 feet from any open water (streams, creeks, rivers and lakes), 150 feet from any trail, 150 feet from any road and below 3500 feet. Elevations above 3500 feet are more fragile high mountain habitats and thus camping is prohibited above this elevation.
There are several state run campgrounds through the Catskills. Two of the most popular are North and South Lake Campground and Woodland Valley campground. Both provide great access to the rest of the Catskills. These campgrounds provide basic services, but do not have electricity or water available at the sites.
Towns and Villages in the Catskills
Several major towns and villages dot the Catskill landscape.
Woodstock is just south of Catskills proper, located just beneath Overlook Mountain. This Woodstock is the “true” Woodstock - of festival fame. The original Woodstock festival took place several miles to the south and west. The real Woodstock village offers an eclectic choice of curiosity shops, book stores, clothing stores, new age stores and more. The village green, at the center of town is one of the best places for people watching. Woodstock also boasts some local theater companies and other types of public performances. Both a summer and winter destination (though best in the summer) – Woodstock is a definite stop on any Catskill trip.
Hunter/Tannersville/Haines Falls – These three towns in the Northern Catskills are home to the Hunter Mountain Ski Resort and provide access to the Mountains of the Devil’s Path Range (a range of mountains, all over 3500 feet tall that run for over 20 miles – the Devil’s Path – one of the Catskills’ few long distance trails runs over this grueling range), along with several other small mountains. North and South Lake Campground is located in Haines Falls. All three offer restaurants and some shopping opportunities.
Windham – Home to the Ski Windham Ski Resort, Windham is a quaint small town with excellent restaurants and shops.
Phoenicia – Phoenicia is the gateway to the southern Catskills and also the base of the rafting businesses on the Esopus River. You can eat at some great restaurants, shop, or if you are feeling adventurous, take a rafting or tubing trip down the Esopus River. The Belleayre Mountain Ski Resort is located about 20 miles further up the road and the world's largest kaleidoscope is located just to the south of town at Emerson Place.
Want to camp in the Catskills?
Looking for a campground in the Catskills? New York State's Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) runs several throughout the Catskills. There are also a number of private campgrounds in the park too. In addition if you are hiking along the Park's trails, camping is allowed on State lands so long as you are not camping in a site specifically marked as "no camping" or at least 150 feet from any trail, road or waterway/waterbody.
Some park campgrounds:
Devil's Tombstone Campground and Day-Use Area
Woodland Valley Campground
So Why Should You Visit The Catskills
All the words in the world aren’t going to give you an accurate picture of these mountains, from the imposing and amazing escarpment, to the hidden waterfall deep in the forest, the Catskills truly are a wonderful and amazing place. You will find popular destinations, historic places, and private, secluded and secret treasures. Take a few days, hike a trail, go skiing, just take the time to absorb the mountains that the Dutch settlers called the “Devil’s Playground” because there truly is wonder and mystery here.
Best time to visit the Catskills?
Depending on your preferred activity, summer and fall are the best times to visit the mountains I think. Holiday weekends can be quite busy, even on the trails, so plan accordingly. If you're a skier, then by all means get up there for the snow in the wintertime!
Some Web Resources on the Catskills:
There are plenty of web resources on the Catskills, here are just a couple of links on some basic information
http://www.dec.state.ny.us/website/dlf/publands/cats/ - The State of New York’s official Catskill Website for public lands
http://www.nynjtc.org - The New York – New Jersey Trail Conference – maps of the entire Catskills and their volunteers maintain many of the foot trails
http://home.epix.net/~ab257/esopus.html - information on Esopus River Rafting and Tubing
The Catskills are more than an afterthought in New York - they really are their own destination. Everyone will find something of interest here - and it's amazing that there's such a wilderness and wild experience less than three hours from New York City.
More Northeastern US Destinations
The Adirondacks (NY) / White Mountain National Forest (NH) / Catskill Mountains (NY) / Acadia National Park (ME) / Bellayre Mountain (NY) / Hunter Mountain (NY) / Ski Windham (NY) / Burke Mountain (VT) / Catamount (MA) / Jiminy Peak (MA) / Whiteface Mountain/Lake Placid (NY) / Tuckerman Ravine (NH)
Best Suited For: Friends
Best Time to Travel Here: Anytime
Bristol Mountain joins fight against state-owned resort
The owner of Bristol Mountain Ski Resort has joined a coalition of business owners fighting what they claim are unfair competitive practices of Belleayre Mountain, a state-owned and operated ski facility in Ulster County.
According to the Coalition for Economic Equality, an organization of private companies that are losing business because of competition from Belleayre, the state facility is a threat because it pays no taxes, doesn’t buy health and other types of insurance or workers’ compensation, or pay for dozens of usual and normal operating expenses. As a result, Belleayre can offer below-cost tickets, and competing recreation centers have lost business, the coalition charges.
“Recently, a central New York ski club which had booked a trip to Bristol Mountain canceled at the last moment because Belleayre offered them $15 tickets,” said Bristol Mountain owner Dan Fuller. “We can’t sell $15 tickets and stay in business.
“At a time when state government is facing budget deficits and everyone is having a hard time financially, it seems silly that New York taxpayers are subsidizing millions of dollars worth of ski tickets so Belleayre can give them away or sell them at a loss,” he added.
Fuller said Tuesday that the ski club that went to Belleayre instead of Bristol had about 40 members, and losing that business alone won’t make or break Bristol. But the incident illustrates how Belleayre’s “predatory policies” can hurt private businesses over the long haul, he said.
“All we want to do is compete on a level playing field,” said Fuller.
Rick Roxin, general manager of Hunt Hollow Ski Club in Naples, said Hunt Hollow isn’t directly affected by competition from Belleayre. Even so, he said the state-supported facility makes it even harder for private resorts to be successful, what with escalating fuels costs and other expenses to deal with.
According to the coalition, Belleayre lost more than $1.1 million a year over the past two years despite receiving millions of taxpayer dollars. “This will only get worse,” said Russ Coloton, head of the coalition and president of Hunter Mountain Ski Resort.
Coloton’s resort is in Greene County in the Catskills, and he said the coalition will lobby state officials to place “financial controls” on Belleayre, making it responsible for paying its way like private resorts do. If the state goes forward with a plan to expand the facility without making those changes, “the result is putting a number of private recreation enterprises out of business,” Coloton stated.
“It will mean millions of dollars of local taxes lost, thousands of people put out of work, and it will be bad news for the communities we have been a part of for years.”
For information, visit nytaxpayers4equality.org.
Contact Julie Sherwood at (585) 394-0770, Ext. 263, or at [email protected]
Ang Lee Directing an Adaptation of Taking Woodstock
Oscar-winning director Ang Lee has directed nearly everything - the Hulk, gay cowboys, sexual spies, kung fu experts, romantic sisters - now he's tackling the greatest concert of all-time - Woodstock! Lee will direct and Focus Features president James Schamus will write the screenplay for a film based on Elliot Tiber's memoir "Taking Woodstock: A True Story of a Riot, Concert, and a Life." While not exactly about the concert itself, the story instead focuses on a motel owner who inadvertently sets in motion what would eventually become one of the most unforgettable concerts in history. Production is expected to begin before year's end with a $5 to $10 million budget.
The film will focus solely the lead character of Elliot Tiber and feature a "colorful" ensemble as well. Although it will be set during the "politically turbulent" summer of 1969, there's no word (at least in regards to licensing) on whether the film will actually feature any of the music from that time. Schamus explains his enthusiasm for the project: "Elliot's exuberant and heartfelt story is a perfect window onto the Woodstock experience. It explores an inspiring historical moment when liberation and freedom were in the air." Let's just hope that makes for a good story on screen, too.
Ang Lee and James Schamus have worked together previously as director/writer on 10 films, including: The Ice Storm, Ride with the Devil, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Hulk, and Lust, Caution. If you've liked any of Lee and Schamus' work previously, it's likely Taking Woodstock will deliver in the same vein. You can pick up a copy of the book on Amazon.com and check out the story of Elliot Tiber and Woodstock before the film goes into production - something that I'd highly suggest.
Owners have way to fight landmen
Complaint forms available when pressure tactics used in search for natural gas underground.
March 30, 2008
G. Jeffrey Aaron
Phoenix Drilling driller Tim Billings, left, and floor hand Justin Billings, right, operate equipment for East Resources on Pennsylvania Avenue in Pine City.
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It's now easier for landowners to lodge complaints about the landmen who knock on their doors and try to strong-arm them into signing a lease for the rights to natural gas that may be under their property.
In the past, property owners could complain to the state Attorney General's Office about harassing or misleading tactics used by some landmen trying to lease the tracts of land that drilling companies explore for natural gas deposits.
In 2004, the property owners did complain, especially to representatives from the Attorney General's Office in Binghamton at gas leasing seminars.
Most speakers accused landmen of using misleading information and pressure tactics and discouraging them from consulting attorneys as they pursued leases for energy companies.
Two years later, in 2006, the office announced a 12-point agreement that regulated how landmen were to deal with prospective clients.
Fortuna Energy Inc., with local headquarters in Big Flats, was the only company named in the settlement and was ordered to cover the $100,000 bill for the investigation.
But the guidelines affect all the energy companies looking for gas in the Southern Tier.
Now, the New York State Farm Bureau and the American Association of Professional Landmen (AAPL), headquartered in Texas, have collaborated on a formal complaint form that can be downloaded from the landmen association's Website at www.landman.org.
The complaint forms also will be distributed at gas leasing seminars sponsored by the state Farm Bureau.
Farm Bureau field adviser Lindsay Wickham credited the AAPL for developing the complaint form and bringing the bureau into the mix.
But the landmen's group had good reason, he said. The Farm Bureau's endorsement goes a long way with property owners who have come to rely on the agency for other services.
And the endorsement came with a cost; the bureau has arranged for the state Attorney General's Office to compile the forms and check the complaints.
The landmen's group would have preferred that another agency not be involved.
In spite of the 2006 agreement, the abuses continue.
Wickham recalls a complaint he received Wednesday from a Broome County landowner who was told that if he didn't sign a lease, the drillers would set up next to his property, drill horizontally and extract the gas under his land without giving him a penny for it.
Ashur Terwilliger, president of the Chemung County Farm Bureau, remembers how a landman convinced an elderly woman to extend her lease a year before it was set to expire and before she could learn about the successful drilling nearby that could have caused her to renegotiate for better terms.
AAPL spokesman Jim Bourbeau admitted problems do occur and said, "There are people out there who shouldn't be out there."
He has fired unethical landmen under his supervision. But, he added, not all landmen are required to join the AAPL and therefore are not under his jurisdiction.
Just how far the complaint forms will go toward cleaning up the negotiations for natural gas leases is anyone's guess.
Property owners tell stories about landmen who have gotten into trouble for tricking people into signing leases merely being assigned to a different area.
Hopefully, with the attorney general's involvement, punishment will now be stiffer.
In a perfect world, the landman knocks on a door, introduces himself, identifies which company he represents and provides a copy of the complaint form before he gets down to business.
In a perfect world, the landowners would know all there is to know about their rights.
But the complaints that popped up as the gas-rich Trenton-Black River formation was explored, and those that will undoubtedly appear as the Marcellus Shale deposits are explored, point to an imperfect world in the gas leasing arena.
Marcellus Shale is estimated to hold three times the amount of natural gas produced annually in the United States.
Property owners already are reporting that landmen leasing for rights to explore the formation are downplaying that as they rebuff landowners' attempts for high bonuses and royalties.
And landmen complain that property owners use past successes of drilling operations to substantially up the ante for drilling on their land.
With the potentially huge amount of money at stake, it will take more than a complaint form to inject a much-needed dose of integrity into natural gas lease negotiations.
Ultimately, a well-educated public will be its own best defense.
But until then, the acceptance of the complaint forms and supporting documents by the attorney general should bring some additional force of law into an arena where is there is very little.
G. Jeffrey Aaron is the business writer for the Star-Gazette. His column about business happenings and issues appears weekly on the Sunday business page.
Groundwater Resource Mapping
Canisteo Valley, New York
"The most productive aquifers in upstate New York consist of unconsolidated deposits of sand and gravel that occupy major river and stream valleys or lake plains and terraces. Ground water in these aquifers occurs under water-table (unconfined) or artesian (confined) conditions. Municipalities, industries, and farms have been built over many of these aquifers because they typically form flat areas that are suitable for development and generally provide an ample ground-water supply. This development, coupled with the high permeability of these deposits and shallow depth to the water table, makes these aquifers particularly susceptible to contamination from point sources such as landfills and petroleum storage and nonpoint sources such as urban and agricultural runoff" (quote from New York USGS).
Typical geologic cross section.
To enhance and promote proper development, management, and protection of the unconsolidated aquifers of upstate New York, the Department of Environmental Conservation has long partnered with the United States Geological Survey (USGS) to conduct mapping reports of groundwater resources of the state. USGS also partners with various local agencies. The distribution and hydrogeologic characteristics of the unconsolidated aquifers are presented at the 1:250,000 scale in a series of five maps published in 1988 on a cooperative basis between the USGS and DEC. Beginning in 1980 and continuing through today, the USGS has partnered with DEC and other entities to produce over 30 detailed hydrogeologic maps for selected aquifers at the 1:24,000 scale (see link in right margin). The aquifer maps generally include a series of 1:24,000 scale maps showing aquifer boundaries, surficial geology, location of wells and test holes, and the water-table or potentiometric surface.
A listing of cooperative publications with the USGS is availble at the NY-USGS website (see links below).
Contact for this Page:
Bureau of Water Resource Management
Division of Water
Albany, NY 12233-3508
From Backpacker Magazine
We've said it before, and we'll say it again: If you plan on camping this summer, make your reservations now. On the heels of Vermont's 7 percent upswing in campers because of high gas prices, New York state park officials have announced a 16 percent increase in camping reservations for the same reasons. (It's amazing how a gas spike can drive people from Cancun to the Catskills).
"With gasoline prices soaring, state parks are an attractive and inexpensive option for people looking to get away without driving too far," said Carol Ash, commissioner of the State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.
ReserveAmerica, the biggest provider of campsite reservations in North America, has reported a 14 percent increase in campsite bookings nationally, so campers beyond the northeast should get on the ball as well.
I wouldn't be surprised if the majority of these new reservations belongs to car campers, so maybe we can get space and fresh air by doing what we always do: Camp off the beaten path. Some of us call ourselves backpackers, after all. — Ted Alvarez
Gas prices help fuel rise in camping at NY state parks (NY Newsday)
Posted on Thursday, 17 of April , 2008 at 9:51 pm
Catskill Park to help local governments plan for sustainable development and make the best use of the natural resources in the region.
The funding will be made available through the state Environmental Protection Fund for grants to promote “smart growth” programs in the Catskill Park following the successful launch of the program in the Adirondack Park. The grants will help communities implement sustainable projects that preserve the natural resources and cultural heritage of their communities while accommodating increased levels of tourism and related development. Smart growth can be used in rural areas to address some of the land-use issues facing the Park communities, such as workforce housing, aging infrastructure, water quality, economic development, open space protection and community revitalization.
“The Catskill Park is one of New York State’s greatest assets. It is a magnificent natural area that protects the water supplies of millions of New Yorkers while also providing outstanding recreational opportunities for state residents and visitors from around the world,” said Gov. David Paterson. “It is also home to more than 70,000 permanent residents whose livelihoods are intertwined with the continued protection of the region’s natural heritage and appropriate economic development opportunities.”
“Smart growth is based on the belief that environmental protection and sustainable development can and must go hand-in-hand – especially for communities surrounded by state forest preserve. Local governments in the Catskills face unique circumstances”, Peter Grannis, commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Conservation said. “Through this grant program, the State can assist them in dealing with such issues as community revitalization, green infrastructure needs, downtown improvement projects and sustainable job creation.”
Smart growth is planned growth that balances the need for economic development with concerns about quality-of-life, such as preserving the natural and built environment. Smart growth is also useful in attracting investments from an increasing number of businesses that consider quality-of-life factors in their decisions about where to establish business operations. A recent report from the state Economic Development Council found that access to outdoor recreation is a major factor in business location decisions.
The grants will be administered by the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) in partnership with the Department of State (DOS). The six grant recipients are: the towns of Andes, Middletown, Olive and Shandaken, and the villages of Fleischmanns and Margaretville. Proposals will focus on projects that have been identified in previous planning studies to protect the region’s natural resources and accommodate sensible economic growth by revitalizing existing village and town centers.
A minimum of $40,000 will be made available for projects in each of the six communities should eligible projects be submitted, and the remaining funds will be awarded based on competitive rankings conducted by DEC in consultation with DOS and other state agency staff.
Officials said the program would provide much needed assistance to the Catskill communities. The Catskill Center for Conservation and Development will also assist the state in publicizing and explaining the opportunities available.
A “Request for Proposals” form is available at DEC’s web site at: http://www.dec.ny.gov/pubs/37874.html The grant application process will be open until June 20th. DEC plans to hold workshops for the eligible municipalities on April 23rd (times and locations will be announced soon). 4-17-08
August 16-29, 2008 in Woodbourne, New York
Green Phoenix Permaculture | 2008 Summer Permaculture Design Certificate Course
Green Phoenix Permaculture and the Sivananda Ashram Yoga Ranch present
A Certificate Course for Urban and Rural Residents, Planners, Land Managers & Design Professionals. This training covers the fundamentals of ecological design, given by two of the country's most experienced permaculture instructors, and many local guests. Join us at a rural retreat center near Woodbourne, New York. Upon completion, course attendees will receive a Permaculture Design Trainee Certificate from the Permaculture Institute.
Course topics include:
- Ecoliteracy and Cycles of Nature
- Sustainable Community Strategies
- Re-Localizing Food Production
- Organizing Eco-Neighborhoods
- Simple Steps Toward a Sustainable Lifestyle
- Natural Building & Property Development
- Adding Beauty & Value to Your Home
- Strategies for Energy Descent & Peak Oil
- Green Business Strategies
- Finding your Right-Livelihood Career
Who Should Take This Course: The Permaculture Design Course has transformed the lives and enhanced the careers of thousands of people around the world, including architects, landscapers, community developers, social workers, city planners, teachers, students, farmers, gardeners, homeowners, Yoga teachers, business owners and others. It's for anyone serious about creating a sustainable future! The principles of permaculture apply to any scale of design, to highly urbanized areas, suburbs, and rural communities and properties. The permaculture approach crosses between disciplines and creates links between them.
Curriculum includes inspiring examples of sustainable land use and human ingenuity from around the world, based on a common pattern understanding. The core curriculum is based on Bill Mollison's book, Permaculture: A Designers' Manual, which Whole Earth Review described by saying "If information had density... this book would be a black hole."
The hands-on learning focus of the course will be on participants' design team exercises and projects, and potential learning projects at the site. The course is taught via lecture, images and videos, group discussion, exercises, and other methods that suit a wide variety of learning styles.
The teaching team:
TOBY HEMENWAY is the author of Gaia's Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture. Scholar-in-Residence at Pacific University, and adjunct professor of graduate education at Portland State University. He is Director of the Center for Pattern Literacy and Field Director for the Permaculture Institute (USA). He is the former editor of Permaculture Activist Magazine, and his articles have appeared in Fine Gardening, Natural Home, Whole Earth Review, and other national magazines.
LARRY SANTOYO is Vice President of the Permaculture Institute (USA), Co-director of The Terra Foundation, and is the founder of the MicroVillage Network. He is among the most experienced permaculture designers and educators in the US and has taught environmental design at colleges and universities nationwide including UC Berkeley and California State PolyTechnic University. For over twenty years, L. Santoyo has assisted private individuals in the design and construction of "Home Ecosystems" and has assisted companies in developing industrial ecologies and sustainable business practices.
PLUS Dave Jacke and other local experts and guest speakers will be announced...
The course fee of $1450 includes all classes, course handouts, tent campsite with facilities (rooms are available at additional cost), vegetarian meals, and optional yoga classes.
Note: $250 non-refundable deposit required to guarantee your space.
Contact Green Phoenix Permaculture at semaley(at)yahoo.com to register and for additional information.
| By FRED LeBRUN
First published: Sunday, March 2, 2008
| There was some movement this past week on the decades-old plan for developer Dean Gitter's proposed Belleayre Resort in the Catskills, and the much newer but related plans by the state Department of Environmental Conservation to renovate and enlarge the adjoining Belleayre Mountain, a publicly-owned ski center.
Whether that movement proves to be forward, sideways or backward, only time can tell. But any movement in this horrendously long and tedious process leading to development is worth pondering.
On Thursday, the DEC unveiled what is called the final scoping document for the two projects. This is bureaucrat speak for roughly defining the issues that must answered in detail by the developers as a necessary step of the state's environmental quality review process. Until this mine field is successfully negotiated, no permits can be issued for actual development.
Now, why I say the movement can go in any direction is this: The scoping document can set such a high bar that it actually discourages developers from going forward. Or, it can set a low bar and give a wink and a nod.
It appears, the 150-plus-page document does a little of both.
Casting a deep shadow on this seemingly objective process is the fact the DEC helped to negotiate an agreement last September with Gitter that broke a logjam that had existed for years. It gave Gitter a rough blueprint on how to go forward. DEC and a number of participating environmental groups signed the agreement. Several groups didn't, and we'll come back to that in a minute.
Here we had the DEC brokering the agreement. The same DEC that manages Belleayre for the state. The same DEC that as developer will prepare answers to those questions posed in the scoping document -- questions it wrote -- and the same DEC that as regulator will pass judgment on the answers.
Small wonder skepticism runs deep among critics. They justifiably suggest that what we're really looking at here, beyond the window dressing of a heavy document, is a very elaborate done deal.
A number of those environmental and local groups that continue to object to Gitterland, notably the Catskill Heritage Alliance, have sued the DEC on that very basis, that it wears far too many hats to be reliable and objective. The suit is pending in state Supreme Court.
That said, high marks go to the DEC anyway for asking all the right questions of itself in the half of the scoping document related to expansion of the ski resort. Well, almost all the right questions.
We still don't have an adequate view of the footprint that will be cast by the state's new Belleayre Ski Resort, which will include the neighboring defunct 78-acre Highmount ski operation. Exactly how many miles of new trail will be added, and how many new new lifts and how big a new base lodge and so on. This matters a lot.
From day one, the too-large scale of Gitterland was its undoing. Now it would be smaller. But the state proposes a grandiose expansion of a public facility that will provide Gitter with a tourist destination right next door.
There is so much that rankles over that arrangement, it's hard to know where to start.
Personally, I don't think the state should be in the ski resort business in the first place. That said, keeping the scale modest is crucial. Using data Belleayre has worked up for the scoping document to show a greater public demand is hugely suspect because the ski center perpetually issues deeply discounted tickets.
So, using popularity as a justification for expansion is bogus. Besides, Belleayre annually runs at a substantial loss, a loss taxpayers subsidize. With expansion, it will lose even more.
As a business venture, a ski resort in the southern end of the snow belt seems especially idiotic to me as we head for a predicted warming trend caused by climate change. Why in the world should state taxpayers not only support such a venture, but throw more money into it?
Another irritation that also casts a pall on this shady deal, is that the September agreement apparently included this major expansion of Belleayre as part of the sweetener. Public money spent to help a private developer profit, which in a word, stinks.
The Adirondack Mountain Club also notes as a legal objection, the view that Highmount can't be bought into the Catskill forest preserve one day, and then become an operational addition to Belleayre the next. There's a constitutional process to follow, says the ADK, and that's being avoided. We'll be curious to see if the DEC chides itself over this.
But as I noted, all these considerations aside, we can't be sure the scoping document offers long-delayed relief for Gitter. Even a casual look at the questions he needs to answer about his development, which include evaluating the carbon footprint and the impact on global warming, suggests lots of new hoops and obstacles that must be negotiated. That could take a long time and plenty of money.
The multi-hatted DEC, of course, knows it's being watched very closely by friend and foe. So predictably it's moving very carefully, But I am also reminded that creating an arduous path in the environmental quality review process for a developer is a long-time favorite way of the state's hoping it all just goes away.
Sometimes it does. Now, wouldn't that be the best. Including expansion of Belleayre, incidentally.
Fred LeBrun can be reached at 454-5453 or by e-mail at [email protected].
The difference betweeen casino traffic and the traffic genrated by 620 time share owners every week as they come and go - especially on the weekends when the change over from one week to the next happens is what? I am appalled at the lack of involvement that this organization has shown towards the Save the Mountain folks. Aren't we all trying to preserve the same area?