PLAN awarded $500,000
SARAH B. FOULKE CHARITABLE FUND AWARDS SARATOGA PLAN $500,000 FOR FRIENDSHIP TRAILS SYSTEM
It is the largest private cash gift ever made to the 17-year old conservation organization. The donation will underwrite the planning, design and stewardship of more than 20 miles of publicly accessible, permanently conserved trails in the 40,500-acre Southern Palmertown Range, a beautiful, ecologically important area that stretches north from Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs to the Hudson River, and is bordered by Routes 9 and 9N, on the east and west, respectively.
Saratoga PLAN aims to design Friendship Trails that will provide enjoyment through an inclusive spectrum of outdoor activities: walking, running, wheelchairing, dog-walking, mountain-biking, horseback-riding, bird-watching, botanizing, forest-bathing, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and learning about nature and local history. Saratoga PLAN will announce new trail segments as they open to the public over the next several years, beginning in late 2020 if public health restrictions are lifted.
ADDING VALUE “FOREVER” TO THE SARATOGA SPRINGS AREA
“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, our source of clean drinking water, and fosters a sustainable forestry and tourism industry,” said Maria Trabka, Executive Director of Saratoga PLAN. “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.”
“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. 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,” said Kim Elliman, president and CEO of the Open Space Institute (OSI). OSI has been collaborating with Saratoga PLAN on projects in the Palmertown Range for several years.
Anthony J. (Tony) Izzo, one of three donor-advisors to the Sarah B. Foulke Charitable Fund, which is administered through The Community Foundation for the Greater Capital Region, explained the impetus for the gift: “Sarah Blackwell Foulke, a Skidmore graduate and an attorney who practiced in Saratoga County, was a kind, giving, compassionate and courageous woman with an outgoing personality, strong spirit, and a great heart and soul. She sought respite and restoration in the woods, enjoying the company of her friends and four-legged companions. The Sarah B. Foulke Friendship Trails project embodies Sarah’s enduring love of Saratoga Springs, nature, dogs, horses, and the power of friendship. We are confident that this gift to the community will bring pleasure to many and benefit all forever. We hope that our donation will inspire others to donate their time and money to Saratoga PLAN projects for the benefit of present and future generations of Saratoga County residents and visitors.”
SARAH B. FOULKE FRIENDSHIP TRAILS SYSTEM IS A MULTI-TOWN, MULTI-ORGANIZATION INITIATIVE
Saratoga PLAN, working with the Southern Palmertown Guidance Committee, will use the $500,000 grant from the Sarah B. Foulke Charitable Fund to develop a master plan for the Sarah B. Foulke Trail system throughout the entire 63-square mile region and to design trail networks accommodating particular trail uses on specific tracts of land in the Palmertown Range.
Seven municipalities, two state agencies, two conservation organizations and one educational institution make up the Southern Palmertown Guidance Committee. They have strategized since late 2019 on how to enhance conservation, recreation, and compatible economic development in the Southern Palmertown Range. Committee members include the City of Saratoga Springs, Saratoga County, Village of Corinth, Town of Corinth, Town of Greenfield, Town of Moreau, Town of Wilton, NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, Skidmore College, the Open Space Institute, and Saratoga PLAN.
The Guidance Committee identified the need for a master trails plan as a necessary next step and its top goal for 2020. The Committee will soon release a Request for Proposals in order to select a trail planning firm to create a master plan and trail design standards for the Sarah B. Foulke Friendship Trails. Saratoga PLAN will contract trail designers to ensure that the trails both fit in with the master plan and align with the vision of landowners who have agreed to share their land with the public.
The master plan will create design standards for public access points, orientation kiosks, designated parking areas, trail markers, and trail surfacing materials for different terrain and uses. Volunteers, organized by Saratoga PLAN, will play a role in helping designers by scouting and ground-truthing site features. Nearby amenities for trail users such as lodging, food, gas, bike rentals, and attractions will be promoted through the project which is expected to provide an economic boon to the area in a respectful way that preserves the natural integrity of its forest community. Saratoga PLAN will set aside a portion of the gift to ensure continuation of the Sarah B. Foulke Friendship Trails. Once the master trail plan and site-specific designs have been completed, Saratoga PLAN and the Palmertown partners will work together to seek additional funds to acquire easements for the trails, surrounding woodlands, and for trail construction and maintenance.
SARATOGA PLAN INVITES VOLUNTEERS TO HELP CREATE THE SARAH B. FOULKE FRIENDSHIP TRAILS SYSTEM IN THE SOUTHERN PALMERTOWN RANGE
As trail designers plan the Sarah B. Foulke Friendship Trails network during 2020, they will need avid, knowledgeable trail users to scout, test, and “ground-truth” the designs and to contribute knowledge about the area for interpretive educational materials. Saratoga PLAN is calling for volunteers with any of the following skills or knowledge: GPS, GIS, mountain biking, equestrian trail riding, hiking, trails for wheelchairs, strollers and walkers, birding, natural history, Native American history, and forest management. Volunteers who sign up now will be contacted when their expertise will be useful. To volunteer, contact Maria Trabka, executive director at Saratoga PLAN, on 518-587-5554 x104 or email@example.com.
HELP OUT AFTER BEING COOPED UP!
When COVID-19 social distancing health restrictions are lifted, volunteers can join a management team to plan a “community forest” on a 67-acre property in the Town of Greenfield that is in the process of being donated to Saratoga PLAN. The volunteers will work under the guidance of ecologist Michael Gaige.
SCOUT, MARK AND BUILD GREENFIELD TRAILS SOON
A site conserved by OSI in the Town of Greenfield will be ready for marking trails and building two stream crossings when an agreement with the landowner is in place.
PALMERTOWN-AREA LANDOWNERS CAN HELP WHILE PROTECTING THEIR LAND
Saratoga PLAN is also reaching out to Palmertown-area landowners who might be willing to allow public trails for specific recreational uses on their properties. Several local property owners have already agreed to allow the Sarah B. Foulke Friendship Trails to cross over their land. All trail designs will be incorporated into conservation easements that will permanently protect the property owners’ woodlands and trails. The property owners themselves will be protected by New York State’s recreation liability statute that prevents the public from suing landowners who share their property with the public for noncommercial recreation. Landowners who might be interested in conserving their property and/or possibly allowing a public trail linkage are invited to contact Maria Trabka, executive director at Saratoga PLAN, for an initial exploratory discussion on 518-587-5554 x104 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
VOLUNTEER MONEY IF NOT YOUR TIME, EXPERTISE OR LAND
Once the Sarah B. Foulke Friendship Trails system is designed, Saratoga PLAN will need more funding in order to conserve additional land parcels, acquire easements, and build and maintain system or other trails in the Southern Palmertown Range. You can become a Friend of Palmertown by donating via www.saratogaplan.org/donate/, or by mailing a check to Saratoga PLAN at 112 Spring Street, Room 202, Saratoga Springs, NY, or by calling Saratoga PLAN on 518-587-5554. Please indicate that your gift is to be used for conservation in the Palmertown Range.