When Alli Schweizer brings out-of-town guests to the office to show them around the workplace, things can easily get carried away.
Schweizer, a New Jersey native, is the park naturalist at the Saratoga Spa State Park, 2,200 acres of natural and cultural beauty nestled between routes 9 and 50 in Saratoga Springs. Designated a National Landmark in 1987, the park has so much to offer, both in the way of outdoor and indoor activity, that Schweizer used to be at a loss to know where to start. She does, however, now have a routine.
“I usually take my friends to see all the main buildings, like the administration building, the Hall of Springs, the Roosevelt Baths,” said Schweizer.
Taste the springs
“Then I head down the hill toward the Geyser picnic area and make them taste the mineral springs. When we’re done with that, it’s back up the hill and through SPAC [Saratoga Performing Arts Center].”
That’s a few hours right there, and Schweizer has only scratched the surface. The Gideon Putnam Hotel, the Automobile Museum, the National Museum of Dance, two swimming pools, two golf courses and tennis courts are among other sites to see while you’re in the park, and if you’re like Schweizer, the opportunities to be at one with nature are extremely alluring.
“We have a number of marked trails throughout the park, and we’re in the process of putting together a more coherent trail system that makes sense and will really add to the experience of being in the park,” said Schweizer.
Lots of wildlife
“We get plenty of wildlife, and I see deer occasionally. I saw signs of a fox just the other day, and there are plenty of birds. We have a heron rookery that’s pretty much impossible to get to in the southern end of the park. There’s a small loop trail [the Wetland Trail] that takes you to a small deck where you can look out into the wetlands. This is a beautiful park with an awful lot to see.”
There is also park land across Route 9 adjacent to Crescent Avenue where nature lovers might be able to get a peak at the Karner Blue Butterfly or a barred owl.
“There’s a mile-long loop there with another loop attached to it, and it takes you through an old-growth Hemlock forest,” said Schweizer. “I’ve seen owls there, and we’ve had plenty of people visit the Karner Blue Butterfly habitat.”
Anyone wishing to get a good look at a Karner Blue might have to hurry.
“They have a short life cycle. So if you wait until the middle of August, you’ll be too late,” said Schweizer.
Also, after all that hiking, you might need some liquid refreshment.
“I like the Polaris Spring because that’s the weakest one,” said Schweizer, referring to a popular mineral spring in the park. “It has a lot of carbonation and that makes the mineral taste go down a bit easier. The natives seem to like the stronger water better, but I send all my friends to Polaris.”