By Dan Hust
BETHEL February 14, 2003 Although public review and comment are now over, the Woodstock Preservation Alliance (WPA) is continuing its effort to keep the Gerry Foundation from building anything permanent on the 38-acre site of the 1969 Woodstock music festival in Bethel.
Overall plans for a $40 million performing arts center and related facilities at and around the famous property have been approved by the Town of Bethel, but thats no longer where the WPA is focused.
The WPA submitted a nomination for the Woodstock site to be placed on the National Historic Registers 11 Most Endangered Historic Places List with D.C.s National Historic Trust, explained WPA member and advisor Brad Littleproud of Canada. This was done in early February, and the list will come out in early May.
Up until that point, he continued, the WPA, who has an active contributing membership of about 50 (with many more quiet supporters), played by all of the rules that included the submission of petitions, letters and comments regarding the zoning changes and acceptance of plans by the Town of Bethel for the performing arts district.
We know what the outcome of that was, he said. The WPA now, along with nominating the site to the endangered list, is attempting to complete the application to have the site placed on the National Registry as an historic landmark.
But can that be done without the approval or involvement of the property owner, Alan Gerry of Liberty?
According to the state and national registry laws, the WPA can apply and perhaps even gain a hearing. But, says the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) on its Web site, Please note that the National Park Service will not list an individual, privately owned property for which they have received the owner's objection.
In other words, if Gerry and company dont want the site listed, then the application goes no further.
Or does it?
According to Littleproud, if any part of the project involves federal funds, the National Registry of Historic Places can review the Gerry Foundations development plans and mitigate the plans for the site if they feel that the sites preservation is at risk.
So far, only $15 million of state monies have been publicly pledged to the project. But according to WPA advisor Dr. Michael William Doyle a Ball State University professor who once was contracted by the Gerry Foundation to examine and report on the historical and social significance of the Woodstock site if any money is coming from a federal source, then the National Park Service (which oversees the national registry) could call for a Section 106 review to see if any adverse effects can be removed, diminished or mitigated in some way.
So what does the Gerry Foundation have to say about all this? Having successfully countered or addressed the WPAs concerns in the past, foundation spokesperson Glenn Pontier offered just one comment:
We addressed this issue in the final Environmental Impact Statement.
In the EIS, as it is known, the foundation states that it is fully aware of the cultural and historical significance of the Woodstock site, and in past conversations, both Pontier and Executive Director Jonathan Drapkin have stated that, if any permanent structures are eventually erected on the original 38 acres (out of more than 600 surrounding it), they would be sited on the southern third of the property in the back, away from the stage, where food service tents and latrines were set up in 1969.
What they term the viewshed the look of the field from the monument at the corner of Hurd and West Shore roads will not change from how it looks now. Although wood fencing has been set up and a stage site has been leveled off, the acreage within the viewshed remains essentially as it was in 1969. (The area where buildings would be constructed cannot be seen from the monument park.)
Littleproud admitted that, in the state environmental quality review, ... [the Gerry Foundation said that it] plans to move towards registration with the National Register of Historic Places of the Woodstock site within 10 or more years.
But . . . as we know, by that time, most or all of the development on the site will be complete, he said.
The WPAs Web site, www.the woodstockspirit.org, currently has a flier that shows a photo of the viewshed portion of the site with a doctored overlay of a chain-link fence. The flier goes on to charge Gerry and Governor George Pataki with caring more about destroying the Woodstock site than enhancing childrens education all at taxpayers expense.
We feel that Bethel, Sullivan County and New York State have been railroaded by well-calculated plans by the Gerry Foundation to do what they will to the site with little serious concern for outside input, continued Littleproud, who said the WPA has garnered support from the likes of Wavy Gravy and Michael Wadleigh (who won an Academy Award in 1970 for his Woodstock documentary film).
As activists, although all may look said and done, these issues are never over til its over.