Saratoga County

County asks 3 areas be protected

County officials will ask that at least three new projects be added to the state’s regional open

PHOTOGRAPHER:

County officials will ask that at least three new projects be added to the state’s regional open space acquisition plan.

They are the Fish Creek corridor from Saratoga Lake to the Hudson River, the habitat of the Blanding’s turtle in Wilton and Northumberland and a 1,000-acre property in southern Clifton Park where the town of Colonie has a reservoir.

Getting listed would add those projects to an existing state priority list that is consulted when the state is deciding how to spend open space money.

The additions were recommended by the county Land Preservation Committee at a meeting Monday in Ballston Spa, and mean that county officials think they should be protected as environmentally important.

“The key is to hit the most important areas, so we don’t dilute what we’re trying to do,” said committee Chairman Bill Peck, R-Northumberland.

The list is consulted when state officials are deciding what purchases to fund under the Environmental Protection Fund, which this year will have $255 million to spend. Most of the money is administered by the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

The state open space plan is updated every two years and is currently undergoing one of those reviews. The county’s requests will go a committee covering DEC’s eastern Adirondack region, which will in turn make recommendations for the statewide plan.

“If [a project] isn’t in the plan, then DEC can’t help,” said Julia Stokes, who is the county’s representative to the regional open space committee.

With no specific dollar figures attached, theses are the county-recommended projects:

u Fish Creek would be added to an existing recommendation that more land be preserved along the Kayaderosseras Creek. Public access to Saratoga Lake and protection of wetlands around the lake could be added as well, if the four communities around the lake approve the idea.

“The creeks and lake are outstanding resources for activities such as fishing, canoeing, rowing and kayaking … Public access is spotty along the creeks,” according to the recommendation.

u Blanding’s turtle habitat. Stokes said no specific area for acquisition has been identified, because biologists are still studying where the turtle lives and travels.

The Blanding’s turtle, listed as a threatened species by the state, was unexpectedly discovered at the Wilton Wildlife Park and Nature Preserve in 2003. The recommendation would allow protection of habitat in Northumberland and Wilton even if it is outside the preserve boundary.

u The town of Clifton Park requested the county back preservation of the Stoney Creek Reservoir off Englemore Road. It is currently a backup drinking water reservoir for Colonie, off-limits to the public, according to Town Supervisor Philip C. Barrett.

“It’s a beautiful area,” Barrett said.

A fourth potential project would be preservation of the Petrified Sea Gardens site in Saratoga Springs. Stokes said she’s talking to the landowner, Pallette Stone Corp., and also to DEC officials about the state acquiring it.

The property, which was open to the public until two years ago, contains rock-embedded sea fossils.

Stokes said the regional open space committee is due to make its recommendations to central DEC officials by May 29.

The last open space plan update in 2006 had recommendations that resulted in Environmental Protection Fund money going to the Round Lake Preserve in Malta and to other projects, Stokes said. Recommendations that state money go toward farmland protection also helped several towns can grants to development agricultural protection plans.

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