The countryside around Saratoga National Historic Park is as scenic and historic as it gets, a still unspoiled landscape of river, rolling hills, farms and streams that looks pretty much as it did during those seminal battles in 1777. With intense development pressure to the west, and even more expected once the new GlobalFoundries factory in Stillwater gets going, the question is whether it can be kept that way. Fortunately, there’s reason to think it can.
One reason is the Battles of Saratoga Preservation and Viewshed Protection Plan, a comprehensive study funded two years ago by the National Park Service and done by the local conservation group Saratoga PLAN. The study identifies the threat from such things as cell towers, farmland loss and sprawl development. And it urges park officials to work with local governments: to educate them about the battle-related sites in their own communities, get them to look at these sites as the cultural and historic resources they are, and then save them through zoning changes, conservation easements, etc.
Saratoga PLAN and the Greenwich-based Agricultural Stewardship Association have already saved thousands of acres through easements, many of them donated by private landowners with these organizations picking up the costs for title searches, lawyers and the like. Legislation sponsored by Sen. Chuck Schumer, which would make Revolutionary War sites eligible for federal Land and Water Conservation Fund money as Civil War sites already are, could provide money for more such easements. The viewshed protection plan calls for saving 14,000 acres over the next 10 years.
The other reason for encouragement is the Historic Saratoga-Washington on the Hudson Partnership, formed in 2008. This is a coalition with representatives from 17 communities, state and federal agencies and several non-profit organizations that meets once a month.
The partnership’s goal is to preserve open space, strengthen agriculture and promote heritage tourism, which it sees as an economic driver. One example is the Tour of the Battenkill bicycle race, which draws thousands of riders and spectators for two weekends of racing each April. Without the natural beauty of the area around Cambridge, with its open vistas, farmhouses, covered bridges and quaint villages, this race wouldn’t be nearly the attraction that it has become.
The partnership’s latest quest, to include navigational dredging of the Hudson as part of the PCB dredging project, would also provide a big economic boost by allowing for more recreational and commercial boating on the river.
Communities in this beautiful area seem to realize what too many others elsewhere have not: that tourists will come for the history and scenery, if only they will preserve it.