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The Advertiser-News (south) - March 22, 2001 issue
Ski Train Could Come to Area
Vernon-It's likely a ski train may be bringing visitors to Mountain Creek in the not too distant future.

Hamburg Councilwoman Marge Morreale spearheaded the idea for the rail service to the county at a meeting of area officials about the future Intrawest Ski village proposal.

Sussex County Transportation Planner Tom Drabic said an excursion train bringing ski visitors to the resort is quite possible and could start as early as 2002.

The train proposal is seen as helping to alleviate traffic concerns for the proposed ski village.

Traffic was the main issue for area elected officials at last Thursday's meeting to discuss the Intrawest proposed development. The meeting, sponsored by Vernon Mayor John Logan and Mountain Creek officials, drew about 35 elected officials from surrounding municipalities and the county at Mountain Creek's Discovery Center.

The Vernon Township Planning Board approved the ski village's general development plan, that is a conceptual overview of the project expected to span 13 years, in December.

The development has been a source of controversy sparking opposition from environmental groups. These groups have lobbied governmental officials to pass resolutions against the proposed development of 1,613 resort residential units, 170,000 square feet of commercial/retail space, a hotel, a conference center and a mountain top golf course.

"It's a win/win situation. It can be implemented relatively quickly at relatively low cost," said Drabic.

Drabic said the existing New York Susquehanna and Western Railway lines which run along the back side of the South Lodge parking lot off Route 94 could carry the trains from Hoboken directly to the resort. The only trains that use the rails are freight trains.

Drabic said the venture would involve the partnering the New York Susquehanna and Western railroad, New Jersey Transit and the resort.

Drabic said there is already existing precedent for the rail service as New Jersey Transit runs excursion trains to the Jersey shore during summer months to promote tourism in the southern portion of the state.

"There's an opportunity to run for the winter. It's important for the region's economy," said Drabic. "(Mountain Creek would--[Missing text-DR]

Once the impact of the resort is determined, methods of remediation by the developer will be discussed and implemented at the expense of the developer.

Hamburg Council members were concerned about the intersection of Routes 94 and 23. Ogdensburg Councilman Robert Peist expressed concerns about increased traffic along Route 517. He said the tiny borough has seen increased traffic on the two-lane roadway as resort goers cut across the county from Route 15 to Route 23.

Ross said that the developer would take concerns of neighboring municipalities under consideration; however, he did not know if traffic studies would be extended beyond township limits.

The meeting was scheduled by Vernon and Mountain Creek officials to dispel inaccuracies and distortions about the development plan.

Environmental lobbyists have persuaded Hamburg along with the Passaic and Bergen County Freeholders to pass resolutions in opposition to the development.

"Some government bodies reached conclusions by information fed to them by our opponents," said Ross.

To set the record straight Ross said that the entire development will provide that 92 percent of Mountain Creek's lands will remain as open space. He added that the previously approved 27-hole golf course has been scaled down by Mountain Creek to an 18-hole golf course.

He also noted that of the 1613 resort units, only 859 units will be located on the mountaintop and those will be clustered in the style of lodges of the Grand Adirondacks. There will be no significant commercial development at the mountaintop. Commercial/retail space will be limited to ground levels shops in the village located at the base of the mountain.

The development is expected to provide a major economic boost to not only Vernon and the county but also the entire region. By 2010 Mountain Creek estimates they will be a $540,000,000 ratable.

"This will be a jewel not only for Sussex County but for the entire region," said Logan, "It's a challenge. We're going into this with our eyes open."

[In case you're wondering what the heck this has to do with the Sussex Branch, I put it in because if it comes to pass, it will be the first regularly scheduled passenger service on the 'South Vernon Branch' in a long time. -DR]

[The South Vernon Branch was the 4 miles from Hamburg to McAfee that the SRR built to get to the mines/quarries in McAfee. It was later sold to the Lehigh & Hudson River Railroad.]