Visitors to Greene County traveled to Catskill for decades for two major destinations: the Catskill Game Farm and Carson City.
Carson City was a popular Route 32 tourist attraction that recreated a town in the Old West complete with gunslinger “shootouts,” a saloon and a train depot where mock robberies were staged. The culprits were taken to an old-time jailhouse.
Carson City also featured a Native American-themed attraction with teepees and Native American dance performances. The frontier ended when Carson City shut down in 1997. The property has been vacant since that time, save for the occasional flea market or car show.
Now, Apple Realty Holdings, LLC, is looking to redevelop the site and transform it into an outdoor recreational facility dubbed The Ranch. The site plan was submitted to the Catskill Town Planning Board on Jan. 15 requesting a special-use permit as an outdoor recreational facility. Revised plans were sent to the planning board May 14 addressing several issues related to a bat habitat and the septic system.
The plan is to create an attraction that will have mini-golf, batting cages and a go-kart track about 600 feet long and 22 feet wide. An outdoor seating area and a concession stand are included in the plan. The proposal also calls for parking spaces for 40 vehicles.
Along with a proposal for development comes the usual protests about the usual suspects: Traffic, dust, hours of operation and, last but not least, noise. This doesn’t mean the concerns of residents are not real, nor does it mean that they don’t deserve a fair hearing from the planning board.
Apple Realty Holdings, to their credit, seems genuinely interested in doing their homework, making all the studies, conducting the research and working with the town and the neighbors.
One point to keep in mind is that this won’t be your father’s Carson City. The proposal is for a recreational facility conceived on a smaller scale than the old Western town. Another point is that Catskill’s track record for pulling in the tourists with new attractions has been less than spectacular. Remember the Lantern Festival two years ago, or the failed attempt to create a Greene County Fair on what amounted to sand dunes?
If Catskill doesn’t bring in the tourists it so dearly covets, not to mention the jobs it badly needs, then a thriving community will become a ghost town — much like Carson City.