Frank Rizzo | Democrat
Bethel Constable Ray Neuenhoff expressed concerns over traffic and water and sanitary issues at the November public hearing.
Mysteryland festival approved in Bethel
Story by Frank Rizzo
WHITE LAKE December 10, 2013 The prospect of 20,000 Mysteryland festivalgoers descending on a confined area in the Town of Bethel brought forth decades-old fears and more recent ones.
Will 7,500 campers, over the course of four days, affect the area’s aquifers? Will the Bethel sewage plant be able to handle the effluent? And what about the traffic?
Those and other questions were raised at the Town of Bethel Planning Board meeting on November 12.
By December 3, they had been answered to the satisfaction of the board, which voted to approve the special use permit by event organizer ID&T to set up campgrounds at the music festival it’s planning next Memorial Day weekend at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts.
A second special use permit will allow a concert to take place within the campgrounds on Best Rd. Mysteryland will use the Bethel Woods festival property across the street which already has a mass gathering permit to hold its own festival.
Mysteryland is a long-running electronic music festival started in 1993 in the Netherlands and has since spread to Chile.
Bethel Woods will host the first such two-day, multi-event extravaganza in the United States.
Project Manager Brian Tamke of ID&T, was at the November 12 meeting to give a presentation.
“It’s an all encompassing event, much more than music,” Tamke noted. “It’s a perfect fit for Bethel Woods.”
Tamke went on to say that “we celebrate unity, nature and talent and social responsibility.”
As to concerns about the effects of 20,000 people, he assured the crowded room: “Our areas look just as good when we leave as when we arrive.”
Tamke’s slide show and talk dealt with the numerous logistical and safety and sanitary issues the event will face.
“We have monitoring teams… we’re proactive and deal with situations as quickly as possible,” he said. “We want to make sure all our attendees are safe.”
As for fears of substance abuse: “We have zero tolerance for drug use or contraband and extremely in-depth search procedures [for campers],” he stated.
In addition to “bringing media attention to this beautiful area for people to discover… we like to work with local suppliers. Local integration is the highest priority for us,” Tamke said.
A number of people spoke up after the presentation.
The Sullivan County Visitors Association (SCVA), represented by CEO Roberta Byron-Lockwood and Board Chairman Paul Carlucci, gave the project its enthusiastic approval.
Carlucci, president of the Villa Roma Resort Hotel in Callicoon, noted that the hotel has been in talks with ID&T about reserving rooms there.
Rick Lander of the SCVA board and Lander’s River Trips supported his colleagues. He compared Mysteryland to the Memorial Day 2011 Phish concerts hosted by Bethel Woods, which he said were an economic boost to the county.
“As a private business in Sullivan County, [Mysteryland] will help me,” Lander said. “I’ve met with the promoters, and am astounded with how organized they are.”
Sullivan County Legislature Chairman Scott Samuelson submitted a letter in support.
Former Chief Constable Raymond “Radar Ray” Neuenhoff read out traffic figures on “normal” Memorial Day weekends and wondered if the town would be able to handle the expected festival influx.
He turned to the campgrounds, asking, “How much water can we supply to 7,500 people and how will it affect us? If it goes too low, will it turn to brown sludge that will affect pipes?”
He added, “Where will the effluent go? Can our sewer plant handle it [when you add] all the restaurants opening and the second home people here that weekend.”
Bob Barrett of Smallwood praised the presentation as “absolutely top shelf; they did a very good job of showing all the things they plan on doing.”
However, “execution is different. The execution of [the Bethel Music Festival] in 1969 didn’t go very well, as we know. The attraction of [the festival] is such that… 40,000 or 60,000 will show up,” Barrett pointed out, making the comparison to “the fences coming down” at the ’69 festival.
“Thank God it was an iconic event,” Barrett summed up Woodstock. “It took us 40 years to recover.”
More practically, Barrett said that sold out concerts at Bethel Woods, which draw 15,000 people, affect the quality of the water of Smallwood Lake, used as recreational body of water by residents.
He echoed Neuenhoff’s concerns about water usage and sewage plant capacity.
Both Planning Board Chair Dan Gettel and Supervisor Dan Sturm said the concerns raised at the November public hearing had been addressed.
“It will be similar to the Phish concerts, traffic wise we expect the same,” said Gettel, who added that patterns on Memorial Day 2011 were not out of the ordinary.
“We’ve had extensive communications between Planning Board engineer Glenn Smith of Monticello and [the ID&T] engineers,” said Sturm. “It has been ascertained that there is plenty of water available at the Bethel Woods site and [organizers] have made arrangements to tanker truck more water if needed. It should not affect the neighbors.”
The camping grounds will be using port-a-potties and they will be replaced three-four times/day, according to Sturm. This will alleviate any need for additional capacity at the sewer plant.
There will be showers at the campgrounds, so “gray water” treatment will be allowed and under town code ID&T will be charged.
Besides, added Sturm with a chuckle, “We don’t know if they will all be taking showers!”
In Friday’s paper: More about Mysteryland.