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Dedicated to the Historic Preservation of the Site of the 1969 Woodstock Festival

THE WOODSTOCK SITE
Hurd & West Shore Rds
Sullivan County
Bethel  NY


 

Disappointed, Preservationists Weigh In
The Towne Crier, September 10-23, 2002

We (the Woodstock Preservation Alliance) are releasing a statement to the Town of Bethel and all agents of the media regarding the current Environmental Impact Statement and its implications for the original 38 acres known as the Woodstock Site in Bethel, New York. It has been a long road in the process of approving plans for the Bethel Performing Arts District and all parties concerned are hoping for an outcome that will not only be of the best benefit to the residents of Bethel and Sullivan County, but will be one that will satisfy the need to preserve an historic landmark that is believed to belong to the world. The WPA respects that what one does with their own property is of little business to others; however, with respect to this particular landmark, historic preservation transcends ownership.

The WPA has always embraced the idea of a performing arts district which will bring the arts and financial gain to Bethel and Sullivan County. However, the WPA is against any buildings of permanent structures anywhere on the original 38-acre site, and any type of security fencing that will enclose this beautiful green space into a compound, disallowing freedom to gather to reflect on its beauty and meaning. Through aggressive public and media awareness campaigning and internet communications, the WPA has amassed significant support through the signing of petitions. These petitions are scheduled to be presented to the Joint Committee by Sept. 12. It was hoped that the final draft EIS would have brought news that the Gerry Foundation had seen the light and chose to put the proposed development away from the original 38-acre site. This, however, was not the case. It appears that the Gerry Foundation has chosen cost-effectiveness and the “bottom line” over the need to preserve a truly unique historic landmark. Simply stated, the Woodstock Preservation Alliance is very disappointed in this decision.

The WPA is a diverse group that spans generations and a wide spectrum of education, vocation and influence, have all reviewed the Environmental Impact Statement. Although parts of the document are found to be sound in principal, the idea of building the core activities buildings on the site is contrary to the supporters’ stand of creating an “intelligent business plan that works.” To carve up and exploit the very landmark that will set this PAC apart from all others, is not only short-sighted, but is neither intelligent, nor will it work. The Bethel PAC with these types of modifications to the site may very well turn off more visitors than recruit their patronage. Is the Joint Council prepared to approve a plan that could jeopardize the hopes and dreams for their community?

The WPA, who was once referred to as “an insignificant group of insignificant people,” has grown in great numbers across North America and abroad. Its means of spreading information for all to make “informed” opinions on the fate of the site has proven quite successful. The overall sentiment thus far is that a PAC is a positive addition to the county; however, development of the site poses a detrimental risk to the venture. The WPA is urging the Joint Council to reject the proposal and tell the Gerry Foundation to build the core activities buildings somewhere else, and not on the 38-acre site. There are 1,400 acres to work with and building on the top of the site is unnecessary.

The WPA wants only the best for Bethel and Sullivan County. It wants only what is right for the Woodstock site, which is a legacy to a generation and modern history. The WPA is prepared to use its established influence to ask supporters to spread the word through communications with tourism bureaus, press, family and friends, to come to Bethel and enjoy the wonderful new Performing Arts District. WPA supporters, which come from your own backyard, to Norway to Australia, are very dedicated and are ready to work with Bethel to promote this venture and make it work. The WPA, also believes in informed decisions, and therefore if the site is built on, the same diligent communication can be expected in informing the public and media of what has happened to the site. It will then be up to the public to decide whether to come or not, or up to tourism bureaus to promote your area. That is a gamble that the Joint Council seems to be willing to make. Again, the WPA believes in free speech and believes that what happens to the site is of interest to all. The organization has always tried to be fair in its assessment of the situation and has been the only real player to go out of its way to not make this a “local” issue. Should the decision be made to develop and fence the site, the WPA hopes that the rest of the state, country, continent, and world will be as enthusiastic as Bethel about the decision.

The WPA truly hopes to be able to work together to make the Performing Arts District a success for all. It has been an exercise in democracy and all sides have made their positions clear. It is a difficult choice that the Joint Council must make and the WPA extends its best wishes. On behalf of all who revere the site of the 969 Woodstock Music and Art fair, we the Woodstock Preservation Alliance wish the Joint Committee and the Town of Bethel wisdom and clarity in its final decision.

 

 

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