SARATOGA COUNTY – Saratoga County has been awarded a $391,000 federal grant toward purchasing 202 acres of forested land in the towns of Greenfield and Wilton, land at the beginning of the Adirondack foothills that could become part of a larger off-road recreation trail system between Moreau Lake State Park and Saratoga Springs.
The grant was awarded by the U.S. Forest Service’s Community Forest grant program. It will help pay for the land purchase as well as development of a plan for community uses of the property, which would be owned by the county.
The federal grant is covering 50% of the cost, meaning the county and private organizations will need to raise a matching amount. Fundraising efforts are underway. It was one of 10 grants awarded nationwide for community forests. One of the others was in Rensselaer County, to preserve 398 acres in the town of Grafton.
The property would be the first publicly owned community forest in Saratoga County, according to the Open Space Institute, a non-profit land preservation group that is developing the project along with the county and Saratoga PLAN, another private land conservation group.
The property, which adjoins the Daniels Road State Forest, has access to state Route 9, advocates said and could link to the planned larger recreation trail system through the Palmertown Range, foothills of the Adirondacks that run through northern Saratoga County and which include Mt. McGregor.
The property has room for public parking and “gently sloping old logging roads (that) will allow visitors of varying abilities, fitness levels, and experiences to easily utilize and enjoy local trails and quickly immerse in an Adirondack experience,” according to the Open Space Institute. “Additionally, as the first publicly owned community forest in the area, the project is intended to serve as a model for future community forest development.”
The property also has steep ridgelines and scenic stream corridors, advocates noted. It sits where land starts to rise on the west side of Route 9, close to some of the large residential developments on Wilton’s flat plains.
“Saratoga County is a rapidly growing region with significant development pressure and OSI is excited to partner with county officials and local conservation organizations to create the first publicly owned community forest in Saratoga County,” said Kim Elliman OSI’s president and CEO.
“This community forest project is an excellent example demonstrating the simultaneous conservation, recreation and economic development benefits resulting from the collaborative efforts of the Palmertown Partners,” said Maria Trabka, executive director of Saratoga PLAN.
Saratoga County, which already owns more than 3,000 acres of dedicated forest land deeded to it by the federal government in the 1930s, would own the property. It would be purchased from a private owner called Wilton Partners LLC for $463,000. County officials said it’s a $200,000 discount from what the owners could have gotten for the land on the open market.
The proposed Saratoga Community Forest would be a key linkage toward creation of the proposed Sarah B. Foulke Friendship Trails network. The trail network would link five protected landscapes within the Palmertown Range: Saratoga Spa State Park, Skidmore College, Daniels Road State Forest, Lincoln Mountain State Forest, and Moreau Lake State Park
In 2017, OSI, in partnership with Saratoga PLAN and other partners began work to create the Southern Palmertown Range Community Conservation and Recreation Strategy to link those properties and create lands for passive recreation and wildlife management. A community outreach coordinator has been hired to help implement the plan and the project has received more than $550,000 in grants to continue conservation and trail work.
A year-long master planning process for an inclusive trail network is scheduled to wrap up this summer, an OSI statement said.