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

Delivered by: Joanne Hague, Preservationist

Members of the Bethel Planning Council, Representatives of the Gerry Foundation, and the good people of Bethel: This statement represents a culmination of effort to preserve and protect the site of the 1969 Woodstock festival, since the announcement of the development of the Performing Arts Center. It is well known to the people of Bethel and Sullivan County that it has been the various incarnations of the Woodstock Preservation Alliance (WPA) that have served to demand accountability from the Gerry Foundation on their plans to develop the 38 acres known, world-wide, as the Original Woodstock Site. I present this statement on behalf of those who cannot be here tonight. Those who for the last few years have remained connected to this cause by phone, Internet, mail and face to face contact. This is not, and never has been, a local issue. We are world-wide and we are here tonight.

We, the Woodstock Preservationists, have pleaded for reason from the Gerry Foundation for what seems years now. We have made it clear through petitions, press, letters, and nominations to national endangered places lists, that we see the Original Woodstock Site as a unique national and global treasure, that deserves better than to built upon and fenced in. We have worked day and night, to foster relationships with the National Historic Trust in Washington DC and the New York State Historic Preservation Office, to make sure they understood what was at stake. These government bodies have been open, attentive, and supportive to our concerns - and we feel that we have been heard. Unfortunately, it has been a struggle to be taken seriously by the very group that holds the fate of the Woodstock site and the future of the Town of Bethel. A struggle from which we have not backed down and instead has made our convictions even stronger. We want to build bridges for communication, if you will let us. We, preservationists, do not want to scold or alienate the Gerry Foundation, however; with letters of desire to list the site as an Historic Landmark - not responded to; with emails and calls for a meeting with the Gerry Foundation to give input to make this venture successful - ignored; with correspondence to Alan Gerry himself from Woodstock co-creator Artie Kornfeld - not returned, we have faced discouragement that the callousness and exploitive capitalism of modern America is about to take away one more piece of irreplaceable global history.

That is not to say that we don’t feel that Mr. Gerry has best intentions for Bethel and Sullivan County. His philanthropic endeavours for this county are unquestionable and his love and generosity for this county unparalleled. That is not to say that we are not pleased with the recent changes in the overall plans for the downsizing of the Central Core buildings. However, we stand firm on the ideal that the PAC and the Woodstock site can co-exist, unfenced, with a permanent stage on the bowl, and an upper plateau undisturbed by concrete and steel. A true preservation of “The Garden” - known to millions through fact and myth. This undoubtedly will be the drawing feature for a venture that will need to be unique to compete for patrons with other venues, and motivate visitors to travel to an area which has been economically depressed for decades.

Thousands of dollars have been spent to hire experts and firms to describe Woodstock; it’s significance and relevance to today, and how it can be marketed. These are people who have no connection to the event and money cannot instill an understanding of what is encapsulated in that 38 acres, no matter how impressive their credentials. Meanwhile Woodstock’s co-creator and soul, Artie Kornfeld, one of music’s most famous promoters, has been rejected and ignored in his offer to share the true relevance of the event and what attraction that land has to those who make the pilgrimage to view it. What happens to the Woodstock Site will make or break Bethel Woods, and that Mr. Kornfeld would not be wanted to give input on how to make the most of this famous site, should be very worrisome to those in decision-making positions. If the experts are to be believed, then the Gerry Foundations’ own expert who authored the cultural and social significance portion of the Gerry Foundation draft EIS, a person paid by Alan Gerry, has made it know that building on any part of the Woodstock site is a fatal mistake for the long term survival of Bethel Woods. Even director Michael Wadleigh, who brought Bethel to the world in the film Woodstock, stated in a letter to the Town that developing the site, is a mistake. With 1700 acres to work with, with your own experts and those who really understand the value of the site undeveloped - saying it is in the venue’s best interest to preserve “The Garden” and use the attraction of this music Mecca as it appeared in ’69 to put Bethel Woods on the map, still, buildings and other alterations are planned for that land. What will bring the crowds is the magic and mythology of Woodstock. The bowl, the upper field and the chance to hear music where IT all happened, those so many years ago. Fence it; build on it … destroy it. The day will arrive when Bethel Woods opens its doors to the world. Once the New York Times, Rolling Stone Magazine and everyone else lets the dust settle with how impressed they are with the design of this complex, they will turn to those who embody what Woodstock was, (the Kornfeld’s, the Wadleigh’s, the Woodstock Generation) asking them what they think of what you’ve done to the site and what they think of your Bethel Woods. Should that judgement day come, we fear that the hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars spent on marketing and public relations won’t undo the opinions of those for whom you need a stamp of approval to make this work. As supporters of the Woodstock Preservationists, those who hold that stamp may choose to speak their minds. And should that spell the doom for Bethel Woods Center for the Arts - we will not be jumping for joy singing “We won, We Won” We will have all lost. You, me, the world. That’s not sentiment. That’s a fact.

We would like to work with the Gerry Foundation to find practical solutions to issues such as the need for removable fencing systems, during large scale events on the bowl, that would allow the site to remain unobstructed when not in use. And how WE, the preservationists, could help the Gerry Foundation spread the word to the world, that making the pilgrimage back to the Garden, housed within Bethel Woods is still a moving experience, and how fitting it is to be within a complex that celebrates the arts of all kinds. How an unaltered Woodstock site could be utilized to promote venues that are fitting with the spirit of the land, and fit with the spirit of Bethel Woods, in the celebration the arts - These remain our goals.

As an educational component of the complex, you plan to tell the story of the event of 1969. We are realistic about how relevant an event that tool place so many years ago is perceived in today’s world. Although we understand the deeper meaning and lessons contained within the Woodstock story, why should people come here? How are you going to make Woodstock relevant to a generation that is generally apathetic about such nostalgic events? How will you re-kindle the sentiments of To the important buying power of the generation for whom this event symbolizes, yet have moved on, raised families and left their youth and the Woodstock era behind? How are you going to make this unique drawing card to Bethel Woods relevant to today? Maybe, just maybe, it’s the passion of ordinary global citizens willing to fight for an icon 35 years later, that is the story you need to tell. How the Garden, the irreplaceable icon of America in the 60’s, where almost 500,000 kids, during one of the most turbulent times in American history, came together for what was just a music festival, and learned how to survive through the spirit of caring and sharing. How it was almost developed, fenced and erased - but elevated at the eleventh hour to it’s proper place as an historic socially, culturally and spiritually significant landmark. How it was left undisturbed by progress, so that others could make the pilgrimage to Bethel Woods, and experience “The Garden”. How leaving 38 acres free for festivals and sharing of the arts was not deemed “a waste of good land”. That, my friends, is your story. It’s steeped in fact. It’s steeped in mythology. It is Woodstock. That’s what makes what you have relevant today - if you choose it.

Bethel Planning Board, we invoke you, do not approve the special uses permit to the Gerry Foundation, not while the development plans reflect fatal errors in the placement of buildings on the Woodstock Site. Request revisions. Choose plans that reflect what the public expects to see...Yasgur's farm - not the ethnic cleansing of the Woodstock generation and sanitizing of history. You need to choose what side of the fence you want to sit on when it comes to Woodstock … but choose wisely.

We preservationists, and activists, who dwell under the name of the Woodstock Preservation Alliance, are grateful for the cause that was started by a few individuals, who saw the need to protect the Woodstock site. Those of us who carry on the leadership of this movement are not the same people who started it all, but our goals remain the same. In the previous meeting, Mr. Wolinski stated that that the Gerry Foundation plans to meet with we preservationists, to ensure that the project is carried out in the manner and spirit intended. We look forward to that meeting. Hold you to that meeting, and like it says in the song, ‘It’s been a long time comin’

We continue to wish all decision- making parties reason and clarity.

The Woodstock Preservation Alliance