Saratoga County will open hundreds of acres in Moreau to recreational horse riders this spring.
The county-owned forest properties west of the Northway were logged last year, leaving skid roads across about 500 acres that can be easily turned into equestrian trails — achieving a goal county officials and equine riding advocates have been pursuing for years.
“We hope after the snow goes out we can get in there and open them up,” county Planning Director Jason Kemper told the county Trails Committee on Monday.
The opening of the horse trails off Redmond and Potter roads will mark the latest development in a five-year effort to open the roughly 3,000 acres of county forest land to more recreational use. Because the county already owns the land and public works crews can build the trails, the cost has been minimal.
Other trails the county has opened in recent years have been available to equestrians, as well as hikers and mountain bikers, but county officials hope to steer most equine users to the Moreau site since it’s large enough to accommodate horses.
“It’s a large area with good sandy soils,” Kemper said.
Mary Ann Morgan of Milton, a member of the Saratoga PLAN Trails Committee and longtime equine trails advocate, said the horse trails will be popular.
The county has a number of people who own pleasure horses, in addition to the large commercial farms that raise thoroughbred and standardbred race horses. Saratoga County has about 11,000 resident horses — the most of any county in the state.
Morgan said other communities with extensive horse trail systems draw outside visitors to their trails, as well as locals.
“It’s like the ‘Field of Dreams’ — if you build it, they will come,” she said.
Morgan said she’s been working for a dozen years on getting horse trails developed. “It’s been a huge undertaking. I’m really proud of the county for what it has done.”
The county forest lands are next to Moreau Lake State Park, which already has a lot of equine users. Kemper said there will be parking on Redmond Road.
Also Monday, the Trails Committee approved a step toward extension of the Zim Smith recreation trail from Coons Crossing in Halfmoon into the city of Mechanicville.
The trail will run about three miles along the side of the new intermodal railroad yard. The county has been trying in recent years to get approval from the necessary landowners.
In recent weeks, it has reached an agreement with developer Bruce Tanski to allow the trail through lands he owns in Halfmoon, and he may also pave some of the trail.
On Monday, the Trails Committee approved a plan to acquire another needed section by subdividing it from a piece of property the county has taken for $32,000 in unpaid back taxes.
There will still be a gap, but the agreements would allow more than two miles running from Mechanicville west to be constructed, as funding becomes available.
“We’ll have small pieces ready to go as grants become available,” Kemper said.
The Zim Smith Trail runs nine miles from Ballston Spa to Coons Crossing, with connections to other regional recreation trails. The current goal is to extend it into Mechanicville, where it could intersect north-south recreation trails that will follow the old Champlain Canal.