Planning has started for a proposed Saratoga Greenbelt Trail, a 10-mile loop around Saratoga Springs connecting three existing hiking and walking trails.
Jeff Olson of Alta Planning & Design said when the city’s first Open Space Plan was developed 20 years ago, there was already talk of a citywide trail connecting the Spring Run, the Bog Meadow and Railroad Run trails.
“Now is the time,” said Olson, who works for a company that specializes in designing bike and pedestrian trails in cities and towns across the country.
Olson is a consultant for a coalition of local organizations planning the Greenbelt trail, including Saratoga PLAN and the Saratoga Regional YMCA.
The first planning session for the new trail was held Monday night in Saratoga Springs City Hall. The public was encouraged to attend and offer opinions and suggestions.
“We need a plan in place to make it happen,” Olson said during an interview before Monday’s “open house” on the project. A trail master plan will be helpful in attracting state and federal grant money and corporate donations for the project.
At least two trail alternatives will be developed:
A completely off-road hiking and biking trail with three alternative alignments, or a “sign and stripe” trail that would use portions of city streets to connect the three existing trail systems. The latter would be a short-term or interim trail plan.
Close to homes
Olson said in recent years people have indicated they prefer such trails closer to their homes so their children can walk or ride their bikes to school and they can walk or ride their bikes to the store or library. There are projects like this being planned and constructed all over the country, Olson said.
“There is increased interest [in a Greenbelt Trail] by businesses, residents and visitors,” Olson said.
“The Greenbelt is being imagined as a 10-mile loop around the city for walkers, runners, bikers, hikers, cross-country skiers, snowshoeing, dog walking and other trail uses,” says a statement on the plan.
The emphasis will be on environmental compatibility and linkage to existing trails to connect city neighborhoods and the downtown business district and key destinations, such as the Saratoga Spa State Park, according to a project summary.
“Our goal will be to develop a network of trails so that every home in Saratoga Springs becomes a trail head,” the summary says.
Andy Fyfe, the stewardship director for Saratoga PLAN, said his nonprofit organization is looking for ideas from the public on developing the new Greenbelt Trail.
Saratoga PLAN helps maintain the Bog Meadow trail system out of Lake Avenue.
“How could that [trail system] connect to the other trails?” Fyfe said Monday.
Saratoga PLAN — Preserving Land And Nature — is a land trust that protects land in the Saratoga region through purchases and donations of land and conservation easements for important natural resources and open spaces.
Alta Planning & Design will lead an interactive public involvement process that provides opportunities for the community to participate and direct the development of the trail project. Public workshops, like Monday night’s workshop in City Hall, will be scheduled and draft plans will be posted on the Greenbelt website (www.saratogagreenbelt.weebly.com) as they are produced.
“Emphasis will be placed on minimizing conflicts between trail users, motorists and property owners,” the project summary says.