Letter to the Editor: ORDA could be opportunity or disaster for Catskills

Read our previous coverage of the Belleayre-to-ORDA handover here, here and here-- Julia Reischel

To The Editor:

The takeover of the Belleayre ski area by the ORDA now seems to be gaining momentum but before it’s too late we need to become involved as a local community that has everything to gain, and everything to lose in this arrangement.

The ORDA recently held a publicity event at a park in New York City where snow was trucked in and the Adirondack ski areas managed by the ORDA were promoted. The object was to remind the city dwellers that there’s snow up north and the resorts at Whiteface, Gore and Lake Placid are open and ready to accommodate downstate skiers and winter vacationers. Fine. ORDA has a publicity machine that is well tuned and reaches from Canada down to Pennsylvania and beyond.

But how would this publicity enticement play out if Belleayre were part of the mix? Would it be a trio or would Belleayre be the odd man out? Would ORDA be as willing to draw the folks from downstate, New Jersey and Philadelphia to Belleayre as to Whiteface and Gore where they have many years and many millions of dollars invested in an existing infrastructure? We need to make sure they do and are committed to such a plan and that plan should be shared with us before the takeover is completed and not after.

Otherwise I can only imagine the headlines in this newspaper five or ten years from now, “ORDA reduces (cuts, eliminates…) funding and expansion of Belleayre Ski Area to concentrate resources on Adirondack facilities”

There is no question that the current situation for the management of the Belleayre ski area needs to be addressed but the local community needs to consider the takeover by the ORDA carefully and with a loud and unified voice. ORDA does not seem to without it’s funding problems and issues with the surrounding local communities. But having said that ORDA is also an economic engine in the communities it is involved with. Our local, county and state elected officials as well as civic organizations need to think and express their feelings in a cohesive unified voice now, not next year and not when it’s too late.

One way to achieve some degree of local control and input is to insist on an expansion of the ORDA Board of Directors from its current 7 members to 9 members with the two new members being required to reside within Ulster or Delaware County. A similar representation scheme is set forth in the current ORDA by laws for Adirondack region (this would require a change to the ORDA’s by-laws). A second change would be to require one of the quarterly ORDA board meetings to take place at Belleayre.

An ORDA takeover of Belleayre could be a wonderful opportunity for the Catskills. It could also be a disaster. I sense that ORDA feels much the same way.

Andrew Messinger

Pine Hill