UPDATE: See full response from Protect the Adirondacks executive director Peter Bauer at bottom of this post.
A local group that organized to open Big Tupper ski mountain — and to advocate for development of the Adirondack Club and Resort — says the popular local destination will not reopen this year.
The group called Arise had formed to reopen the mountain on a volunteer basis, while waiting for a new resort destination to be built. The project was approved by the Adirondack Park Agency last winter.
Construction of the resort’s amenities has been delayed by a lawsuit filed by two environmental groups, Protect the Adirondacks and the Sierra Club. That Article 78 challenge is now being reviewed by the courts.
In a statement released Tuesday evening, ARISE president and local real estate developer Jim LaValley blamed the decision on the suit.
“Big Tupper was in a position to receive substantial financial assistance,” LaValley said in a statement. “With the filing of the Article 78 lawsuit, that opportunity dissolved, and we are forced to close.”
Environmental groups have accused the APA of issuing the permits inappropriately, failing to follow state rules designed to protect the environment, and questioned whether state officials colluded with developers. Full ARISE press release below.
ARTICLE 78 LAWSUIT FORCES BIG TUPPER TO CLOSE
TUPPER LAKE – It was announced Tuesday evening that the Big Tupper Ski Area has been forced to close. ARISE Chairman Jim LaValley was joined by members of the Board, as well as managers and volunteers of the Big Tupper Ski Area, at P-2’s Pub in Tupper Lake.
LaValley said that the community of Tupper Lake and Big Tupper supporters should hold the Board and members of PROTECT the Adirondacks, the Sierra Club, Phyllis Thompson, and Bob & Leslie Harrison responsible for the closure. “Following the issuance of the permit for the Adirondack Club by the Adirondack Park Agency, Big Tupper was in a position to receive substantial financial assistance. With the filing of the Article 78 lawsuit, that opportunity dissolved, and we are forced to close.” LaValley went on to say that, “the Board and membership of PROTECT and the Sierra Club should be ashamed at the way they have chosen to attack a community by using Artice 78 lawsuits in a frivolous manner, and as a weapon against a project that was approved by the Adirondack Park Agency Commissioners with a 10:1 vote after 8 years of review.
The project was determined to not have an undue adverse impact on the Park’s resources. Peter Bauer, Bob Glennon, and John Caffry, have made their intentions clear by taking a very public position on how they want to kill the Adirondack Club and Resort. They have stated such in the press, and because of their actions it has forced the closure of the ski area, caused the further degradation of Tupper Lake, and flies in the face of Governor Cuomo’s efforts to improve and create a healthier Adirondack economy.”
LaValley added, “even if ARISE were financially able to continue the operation this season, given the on-going threat of lawsuits from Bauer, Glennon and Caffry, and the time frames of the legal process, it is my opinion that the volunteers would have to continue operating for another 3 to 6 years. We cannot expect the volunteers to continue for that long, nor can we afford to.”
LaValley showed that over the past three seasons, the expenses have outweighed the income, with the last season being the biggest. He said, “Donations and gifts have dropped off since the first year, and we will be looking at a difficult pre-season of ticket sales following the poor year we have just come out of. Even with the volunteer effort, it takes approximately $160,000 to run the entire season.” He told the group, “I hope you see the challenges.” The ARISE Board will be reviewing ways to utilize the money they hold, and money to be raised at the upcoming OkTupperfest.
LaValley concluded by saying, “The operational effort has been challenging for a number of people, who have given at a great personal cost. Your efforts will never be forgotten, and I’m sorry that the time has come for this very difficult decision.”
And now here’s a statement from Protect:
It’s unfortunate that PROTECT is turning into a convenient scapegoat for all problems and challenges facing the Tupper Lake community, both real and imagined. PROTECT sympathizes with the disappointment of many in Tupper Lake and surrounding communities over the apparent failure of the Big Tupper Ski Area to open and be revived this winter. We also acknowledged that some are blaming us, though we believe this is wrong. PROTECT has brought a lawsuit against the Adirondack Park Agency to challenge its order for approval of various permits for the 6,000-acre Adirondack Club & Resort project that includes the Big Tupper Ski Area. The APA’s approval was deeply flawed. We believe that our lawsuit is vital and important for the future of hundreds of thousands of acres in the Adirondack Park that will be saved from ruinous precedent that somehow the APA can illegally supplement an adjudicatory public hearing record after it is closed in order to justify its decision, that the APA can somehow chose to view its laws as mere guidelines or recommendations, that required findings of fact and law can be ignored, that APA rules and regulations can be subverted to structure a permit to meet the wants of an applicant, and that all manner of illegal ex parte communications can occur between the APA, the applicant, and elected officials and their representatives. We’re working for a full investigation of this issues raised in this lawsuit and a speedy resolution.
–Peter Bauer, Executive Director, Protect the Adirondacks