Saratoga PLAN Study: Northern Saratoga County Has High Potential For Conservation And Recreational Development

The plan to create a network of trails connecting various towns and cities throughout Saratoga County (and beyond) got a big boost on November 15 with the release of a study entitled, the “Southern Palmertown Conservation & Recreation Strategy.” Local, nonprofit land conservation group, Saratoga PLAN, produced the study, which identifies parts of Northern Saratoga County that have a high potential for recreational development. What that means is the potential for more visitors to parts of Saratoga County that don’t see nearly as much tourism as, say, Downtown Saratoga Springs, providing an economic boon (and possible boom) to restaurants, campgrounds, hotels and other local businesses.

The new land management strategy focuses in on Southern Palmertown, a largely undeveloped and mountainous area stretching from Moreau Lake State Park down to Saratoga (Route 9 and Route 9N border large portions of it). The Southern Palmertown range is largely an ecologically intact environment with forests and wetlands that offer a diversity of conservation and recreational opportunities. However, its proximity to growing population centers (i.e. cities and towns) and major transportation infrastructure (the Northway runs parallel to the tract’s eastern border) makes the Southern Palmertown area extremely attractive to commercial and residential developers. “There’s kind of a master plan for the county to protect Southern Palmertown,” says Maria Trabka, Saratoga PLAN’s Executive Director. “We want to create long-distance trails that will connect communities as well as smaller, localized networks built off of existing trail heads. There’s also a plan for blue trails, [or] docking places for people who want to boat and hike.”

The overall goal of the plan is to preserve the majority of the land while simultaneously providing more recreational development to the towns of Greenfield, Wilton, Corinth and Saratoga (Skidmore’s own North Woods is one of the places of high recreational interest in Southern Palmertown). The Palmertown Trail was a concept envisioned by Saratoga PLAN 12 years ago to connect Moreau Sate Park with Saratoga Spa State Park. Once completed, Saratogians will be able to participate in long-distance hikes from Moreau to Mechanicville, and from there all the way up to Canada using the massive Empire State Trail, a 750-mile route spanning New York State, which is scheduled to be finished by 2020.

Saratoga PLAN developed the 126-page Southern Palmertown report over the past year, in cooperation with the Open Space Institute and Alta Planning and Design, a planning consultancy in Troy. Since 2003, the year the organization was founded, Saratoga PLAN has conserved more than 5000 acres of land and continues to actively manage 22 miles of trails at ten separate parks. If you’ve visited Round Lake Preserve, Ballston Creek Preserve or Lake Bonita at Moreau State Park, then you’ve seen its work. “The next steps are to have all the towns and the many partners to sign on that they’ll work together toward accomplishing the goals,” says Trabka.

Trabka’s quick to note, though, that the Southern Palmertown strategy is still years away from possible implementation. The study also found that if left unchecked, suburban sprawl and development could lead to a 60 percent decrease in the area’s natural habitat and a 90 percent drop in its agricultural land. “It’s never easy to create a compatible marriage and balance between economic development, residential development and conservation,” says Trabka. “But that’s why we came up with the plan.”

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