SARATOGA COUNTY — Saratoga PLAN has received a $500,000 grant from a private charitable fund to underwrite the planning, design and future stewardship of a 20-mile hiking trail system running through the southern Palmertown Range, in the Adirondack foothills between Saratoga Springs and the Hudson River in Moreau.
The grant from the Sarah B. Foulke Charitable Fund is the largest that the private land trust has ever received, and will be used for perhaps its most ambitious project to date: creating a trail system through multiple towns in the northern part of Saratoga County.
PLAN hopes that some trail sections can open by late this year, if current restrictions caused by the coronavirus pandemic are lifted. The trail system includes Moreau Lake State Park and other state-owned lands, as well as municipally owned lands and private properties where public access easements will be sought. Plans for the project emerged from a 2018 study that looked at an idea for expanding hiking trails that has been around for decades.
“The Palmertown Range forms the southeasternmost corner of the Adirondacks. The undeveloped acreage of this semi-wild woodland provides climate-resilient habitat, replenishes streams and lakes, is a source of clean drinking water, and fosters a sustainable forestry and tourism industry,” said Maria Trabka, Saratoga PLAN’s executive director.
“Fast-growing local populations and visitors to the area will be able to enjoy a permanently conserved wilderness experience within easy access of their homes and lodgings,” she said.
“This grant will support the development of a recreational trail network within Saratoga County that will provide people with a place to enjoy nature and wildlife while also creating a vital protected corridor for wildlife habitat and movement,” said Kim Elliman, president and CEO of the Open Space Institute, which is a partner in the project. “The trail system has been recognized as a top priority by business owners, partners, and outdoor recreation interest groups, and this funding will help make that goal a reality.”
The grant is coming from a fund established on behalf of the late Sarah Blackwell Foulke, a Skidmore College graduate and an attorney who practiced in Saratoga County for decades. “The Sarah B. Foulke Friendship Trails project embodies Sarah’s enduring love of Saratoga Springs, nature, dogs, horses, and the power of friendship,” said attorney Anthony Izzo of Saratoga Springs, a trustee of the fund. “We are confident that this gift to the community will bring pleasure to many and benefit all forever.”
Seven municipalities, two state agencies, two conservation organizations and one educational institution make up the Southern Palmertown Guidance Committee, which has been working on plans for the project since late last year. The partners include the city of Saratoga Springs, Saratoga County, village of Corinth, and towns of Corinth, Greenfield, Moreau, and Wilton; the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and the Department of Environmental Conservation; Skidmore College, the Open Space Institute, and Saratoga PLAN.