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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Cockaigne To Reopen Wednesday

Tent To Arrive From National Guard On Monday

January 29, 2011 - By Dave Emke,
CHERRY CREEK - In just a few days, skiers will be coming down the slopes at Cockaigne Ski Center once again.
A news conference will be held at Cockaigne today at 10 a.m., where owner Jack VanScoter is expected to announce that the center will reopen for business Wednesday night.
A large tent is expected to arrive from the Army National Guard's 2-101 Cavalry in Buffalo on Monday, and it will be used as a temporary lodge. The ski center's historic lodge, originally the Austrian pavilion during the 1964 New York World's Fair, burned to the ground earlier in the week.
Assemblyman Andy Goodell is helping to coordinate the effort to support the ski center, and he said Friday that agencies including the American Red Cross of Southwestern New York, the Chautauqua County Health Department, the Department of Environmental Conservation, and the state Office of Parks and Recreation are all banding together to get Cockaigne up and running again as quickly as possible.
According to Jeff Laumer, director of emergency services for the American Red Cross of Southwestern New York, the National Guard promotional tent that will serve as Cockaigne's temporary lodge will measure approximately 60 feet by 20 feet.
Laumer said the Red Cross' goal is always to help people get back on their feet after disaster strikes. Cockaigne Ski Center employs more than 200 local individuals, and the Red Cross is there to help them, Laumer said.
As the slopes at Cockaigne were not affected by the fire, and with other area ski lodges chipping in to help with rental equipment, what was needed was a lodge. Laumer said he started calling National Guard units in the area to try to make something happen, eventually making a connection.
''I thought if we could just set something up and help them provide a lodge, that would help them continue to provide operations,'' he said.
After the tent is delivered by the National Guard on Monday, a volunteer team put together by Laumer will assemble it and put it in place for Cockaigne's use. The use of a tent as a lodge will be a return to Cockaigne's roots, as a tent was used as a temporary lodge in 1966 for the ski center's first year of operation while the Austrian pavilion was being reconstructed on site.
''Hopefully, it can stay in place for the rest of the season to serve as their replacement lodge,'' Laumer said. ''It's the first step to coming to a solution.''
Goodell said that in addition to the tent, the Cockaigne that those who visit will see for the remainder of the season will have many amenities - just in a different setting.
Arrangements are being made with a local food service provider to offer fare such as hot chocolate, hot dogs and hamburgers, he said. Porta-potties will be available as restroom facilities, and picnic tables are being brought in from Midway State Park. Temporary business offices have already been set up in the form of a trailer.
For ski clubs and others who rent their equipment, the ski center plans to have items available. The difference is that - as Cockaigne's equipment was destroyed in the fire - the names on the equipment will reflect the local lodges who have chipped in their support.
''It's likely that if you go to Cockaigne and need ski rentals, you might have skis from Peek'n Peak or Holiday Valley or somewhere else,'' Goodell said. ''There has been a tremendous amount of support coming through.''
Goodell said that in addition to him, local economic development staff including Bill Daly of the county Industrial Development Agency have reached out to Cockaigne, as has County Executive Greg Edwards and the state Economic Development Agency.
All have been coming together to help Cockaigne both in the short term and the long, Goodell said. However, present-day needs must be addressed before anything down the line can be tackled.
''The owner is focused on getting the place opened, and that's an incredible process,'' Goodell said. ''The long-term future of Cockaigne will be addressed as soon as the immediate demands of getting the place opened are taken care of.''
The remains of the former lodge are in the process of being relocated from their current location to a cleared area near the ski center's entrance, from which they will be removed in the spring.
At the same time, a volunteer effort is being coordinated to begin the effort to transform the former Grainery Restaurant, located across the street from Cockaigne, into a more permanent lodge. Goodell said work is already being done to attempt to transfer the lodge's liquor license to the former restaurant, and that the Alcohol Beverage Control board is being very cooperative in the effort.
Goodell said he is coordinating the effort even though Cockaigne is not in his Assembly district because he has special ties to the ski center. Not only is he a certified ski instructor at Cockaigne who lost all of his equipment in the fire, he said, but many of the center's employees live in his district.
''I took the lead just because of the employment impact on Chautauqua County, and because I have a longtime personal relationship with Cockaigne,'' he said.
Goodell said Assemblyman Joe Giglio - in whose district Cockaigne sits - is also very supportive of the effort, as is state Sen. Cathy Young.
''Certainly, they will do anything they can to help the employees and help the organization survive this,'' he said. ''And we're lucky to have those two there.''
Goodell said that the overwhelming support that has been shown from so many different people and agencies has been incredible.
''It really is heartwarming, and it some ways it's what's unique about Chautauqua County and the people here,'' he said. ''We have a reputation for pulling together and helping each other when we really need to.''

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