It was announced last Tuesday night that Big Tupper Ski Center would not open this season, and Tupper Lakers are mad as hell.
The anger is directed at Protect the Adirondacks, the Sierra Club and Bob and Leslie Harrison and Phyllis Thompson for their frivolous Article 78 appeal against the Adirondack Park Agency for approving the Adirondack Club and Resort in our community. Investment in the ACR and funding for the next ski season dried up as soon as the appeal was made public this spring. Even before the Big Tupper announcement, the Park Restaurant closed its doors as summer ended, and now there are rumors of at least two more businesses on Park Street on the verge of closing.
Over the last three years I have written several letters to the editor and Guest Commentaries to the Adirondack Daily Enterprise and the Tupper Lake Free Press supporting the ACR proposal in Tupper Lake. Each time I took my first draft to my wife for review. She would always shake her head and say, "You can't say that," and "You can't say this," and, "You certainly can't say this here!" Ninety-nine percent of the time, I took her advice. This is not one of those times.
It's time to get angry over the extreme environmental groups who enjoy a protected status while stifling economic development in the Adirondack Park. It's time to put a finger in the chest of those who have lost the fight but continue to stall the inevitable by abusing the legal system. It's time to quote that movie line: "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore!"
It's time to get angry at Protect, the Sierra Club and at the two seasonal neighbors who only submitted this appeal for selfish personal gain. Truth be told, I also support the ACR for selfish personal reasons: I want to conduct more business in Tupper Lake. I'd like to hire more employees. I'd like to see more businesses stay in business, and I'd like to see new ones join us. I'd like to see more opportunities for my children and all those young adults who want to stay in the Adirondacks but see no future here. I'd like to see a true balance between the environment and the economy in the Park.
While we in Tupper Lake see the ACR as a project that will benefit the whole community, John Caffrey of Protect needs to get paid for years of advice, even though his legal skills did not carry the day. Bob Glennon is back into the fight to try and salvage his failed legacy, carrying the water for the environmental groups who had more influence in this Park, especially under his rule.
Peter Bauer is back and is now the director at Protect. Apparently he is done aggravating Lake George and now sees an opportunity to revive a leaderless organization. What he and the other radical environmentalists also see is an opportunity to revive failed donations as Protect sends out the false alert that the Adirondacks are about to be ruined by the ACR. It's all about the money. Peter, John and Bob need to be paid, and the ACR is the boogieman. Peter, the sky is not falling, the ACR is not going to "fragment the backcountry," and Tupper Lake can manage quite well without you. We have had our fill of sanctimonious environmentalists trying to tell us how to run our community and how to care for our own property.
But where are the other members of the Protect board? We would like to hear from them: Nancy Bernstein, Vermontville; Lorraine Duvall, Keene; Anya Bickford. Indian Lake; Dean Cook, Ticonderoga; and Evelyn Greene, North Creek. Now that Protect has lost the APA battle, how do you feel about the pain you are causing your fellow Adirondack community members by trying to delay and kill a project that can revive our struggling economy? Your silence is deafening. Come to Tupper Lake, and look at our empty main street buildings, and look in the eyes of our unemployed contractors.
Tupper Laker Bob Harrison is on the Protect board. His Tupper Lake island property is now for sale. I guess his work here is done. Phyllis Thompson, another opponent of the ACR, lives in South Bay of Simond Pond. She owns one of two properties in the bay, and she likes it that way, but soon her oasis will be surrounded by ACR property. Don't expect any cookies from your new neighbors, Phyllis. You have to love karma.
Last but not least is the Sierra Club. Do they even know where Tupper Lake is? They did not participate in the adjudicatory hearings, so why should they be allowed to sue the APA? How ludicrous is that? Call Roger Downs, Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter, and ask him why he is participating in this baseless appeal.
The problem with radical environmentalists is that they can't do math, especially when percentages are involved. The same groups who threw Gov. Cuomo under the bus by saying he unduly influenced the ACR decision are praising his purchase of 69,000 acres of the former Finch, Pruyn and Co. lands to be added to the Forest Preserve. Now the ACR project is 6,000 acres in size, but the developers have already agreed that only 10 percent of that will be developed. Ten percent is 600 acres. So it's OK for the taxpayers to foot the bill for 69,000 acres of new Adirondack land to please the environmental groups, but we can't compromise over the development of 600 acres for the good of the town of Tupper Lake and the Tri-Lakes region. The 600 acres of the ACR is 0.869 percent of the Finch Pruyn parcel. That's less than 1 percent. It's selfish, totally unfair and disingenuous for any group to oppose a project that has been reviewed for almost a decade and overwhelmingly approved by the APA, a very stringent zoning body - a project that is desperately needed and overwhelmingly wanted by the local citizens.
In a press release right after the Big Tupper announcement, Protect mouthpiece Peter Bauer stated that "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." First of all, Tupper Lake doesn't need Peter Bauer's sympathy, and second of all, the effort to revive Big Tupper was not a failure. It was a significant feat that volunteers were able to open for the past three years against tremendous odds.
In what can only be described as the ultimate in hypocrisy, environmental groups now accuse the APA of favoritism toward the ACR and economic development - this from groups who have successfully stifled development for decades. So if I'm calling that hypocrisy, I must be calling Peter Bauer, Bob Glennon and John Caffrey all hypocrites. That's true.
If you are also "mad as hell," call Peter Bauer at Protect the Adirondacks and John Caffry at Caffry & Flower to voice your disgust in how they have treated Tupper Lake and how they have abused the legal process, all in an attempt to prevail in their narrow-minded views and to line their pockets at the expense of jobs and growth in our town.
State Assemblywoman Janet Duprey visited Big Tupper in early September of this year. ARISE (Adirondack Residents Intent on Saving their Economy) President Jim LaValley asked Janet if state lawmakers could consider legislation that would allow business and municipalities to sue entities like these extreme environmentalists for lost business activity when they interfere with legitimate, permitted projects like the ACR. Janet took note because, unfortunately, these environmental groups have a "protected" status that prevents counter-suits. A loophole needs to be closed in what is called anti-SLAPP statutes that allows abuse of the system. Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP) refers to suits brought in response to efforts by individuals or groups to participate in the legal process by some person or entity that claims to have been wronged through that participation.
While the citizens of Tupper Lake are mad over this outcome, we have to be very proud of the grassroots efforts of ARISE. ARISE volunteers spent thousands of hours in refurbishing Big Tupper, and supporters donated thousands of dollars to make that a reality. Tupper Lakers are only stronger now because of the efforts of ARISE, and we will prevail as a community, but the cost has been high.
Last but not least, it's necessary to say thank-you to developers Tom and Susan Lawson and to Mike Foxman for persevering in this odyssey of eight years, going on forever. It's that "going on forever" that should anger all citizens of this Park.
Now let's wait to see what happens next. Expect these radical environmental characters to try and submit another Article 78 appeal against the state Department of Environmental Conservation, then against the Department of Health and then against our local planning board, all in the attempt to drag this on and on and on. Just wait.
Mark Moeller lives in Tupper Lake, is president and CEO of CBNA Insurance Agency Inc. and is spokesman for Tupper Lake Business Community Inc.