Welcome to the Woodstock - Preservation Archives
Dedicated to the Historic Preservation of the Site of the 1969 Woodstock Festival

Hurd & West Shore Rds
Sullivan County
Bethel  NY


Bethel Planning Board Meeting - March 9, 2004

Statement Presented by: Martie Malaker, Preservationist


To: The Bethel Town Planning Council

Hello Bethel, My name is Brad Littleproud and I am a Canadian citizen, a 40 year old professional and family man, who took up the cause to help preserve the sacred site of the '69 Woodstock site over two years ago. I thank you for allowing me this opportunity to voice my concerns at this public hearing. Initially I was apprehensive about meddling in the local politics of a county, state and country for which I am not a citizen. The more I learned, the more I realized that the issues surrounding the development of the Woodstock site and Bethel Woods was as much about me, and everyone else on this planet as it was for the good people of Bethel.

In 2002 I made a pilgrimage to your town and the Woodstock site with a friend, following a 12 hour drive from the suburbs of Toronto. The second time getting out of my Van throughout that whole trip was to set foot on the Woodstock site and I must say that I was truly moved by this precious place ...that was until a white car sped up HURD road from the Gerry camp set up at the bottom of the site. Yes, I stepped onto private property. Having driven 12 hours to a small corner of the planet that represented my values of caring, sharing, and global consciousness, it would have been unthinkable not to place feet upon such an historic place. My quiet reflection on 33 years past was broken by the yelling from the Gerry employee in the car to “Get the Hell off the hill. It was private property.”
I was a little taken back, as in my country a guest, even an unwelcome one, would have been greeted with an "excuse me sir". I did the only thing that a pilgrim could do. Snapped her picture for posterity and made my way off of the site via a direct path down the center of the hill towards the stage. This story is not meant to publicly embarrass anyone, or be disrespectful to the Town Council or the Gerry Foundation. My point is that, I was not put off by the encounter, nor did it change my feelings for that land. It only served to make my convictions stronger. That something wonderful happening for Bethel and Sullivan County via the generosity of Mr. Alan Gerry was veiled in an unnecessary ugliness. That land has history and has a soul. I think you know that.

For 35 years, you have had this beautiful, controversial and politically volatile gem in your hands. Yet a town that bears the festival's name with no connection to it, has reaped the rewards leaving Bethel to struggle. I can appreciate the pressure that is on the Gerry Foundation to break ground and get this project rolling from a community that is looking to this venue as a catalyst for economic recovery. However, as one who has followed this project and cares about it as much as any local citizen, I find myself questioning your thought process and rationale for the choices you have made. Especially those regarding the negative marketing impact of buildings on the primary asset that is going to make or break Bethel Woods. That is, the 38 acres Woodstock site.

As a professional and businessman who specializes in the understanding of human emotion, motivation, and behaviour, it is beyond me how you could have allowed any consultants to tell you that people will respond positively to seeing your logo image of the whimsical 60’s style, Jethro-Tullish flute player at the front gate, only to come upon buildings and parking lots initially. And on what they expect to see as unspoiled farmland and a field. Although on one level, such planning formats may be standard for these types of venues, I can tell you on a professional level, that in this case, it serves only to instill confusion and disappointment.

A major marketing mistake creating a complete opposite effect to what you want. In preservationist circles, it has been said, and I cannot corroborate this, that Allan Gerry stated that when he walks on the Woodstock site, he feels nothing. We preservationists have warned you that development on that 38 acres will destroy the magic of the Woodstock legend.
And we promise you preservationists and high profile supporters closest to the original event, are going to exercise their right to free speech stating that they no longer feel anything there. These will be the natural consequences of your well-intentioned, yet short-sighted plans. For the sake of Bethel Woods’ survival, patrons will need to feel something special when they go through those gates. Whether this community has comes to terms with its feelings towards this event or not, the world will come to see Yasgur’s Farm of 1969 and won’t care one bit about your mixed feelings or apathy towards what happened 35 years ago, your feelings about the gatherings each august on Roy Howard’s property, and the pilgrims who desire to set foot on the festival site.

The neo-hippies are one matter. Tapping into the sentimental psyche and buying power of three generations is another. Believe me, if this Town does not believe in or get behind the spirit of what is in that 38 acres, no one else will. If this Town does not do anything to put itself forward as goodwill ambassadors for an icon and a legend that mean so much to so many, you will have just a bunch of buildings and a hill like anywhere else. Replicas of the shanty A-framed concessions at the top of the bowl and music coming from a permanent stage below will go further in instilling the desire to return than million dollar buildings featured in architectural digest.
That’s not Woodstock. That a turn-off.  Believe me….I am an expert too.  I ask you, the Bethel Planning council to not yield to the pressure to move forward with this project through approving the Special Uses Permit. Not until the Gerry Foundation is requested to re-think and present development plans that ensure the longevity of Bethel Woods. The current plans, though appearing reasonable on the surface would have never got this far in a larger metropolitan city. The risk of creating a large white elephant would be obvious.

However, I’m speaking only of my experiences within my country which would have embraced and brought in the consulting knowledge of those closest to the event in order to not make the costly mistakes that have been made thus far with the Bethel Woods development plans. You are at a crossroads now. The fate of the community is in the hands of very few, and what you decide, and what the outcomes are, will be forever associated with you. Far beyond your time in this world.

I know that there has been little opposition to these plans by the community thus far. That however does not give validation to these plans. Deprivation and desire for change can make us agreeable to many things that in the long term are doomed to failure. Don't destroy your dreams before they are even realized. 

If you won’t listen to the logic of an ordinary man, maybe you will listen to the words of the man who made your Town famous and understands what you hold there in those 38 acres. I am proud to call that man a friend. He's also your friend: Mr. Artie Kornfelds' audio / text transcribed statement.

Brad Littleproud, 1544 Amberlea Rd., Pickering, Ontario, Canada, L1V4V3