By Gwendolyn Craig
Trail connections from Saratoga Springs into the Adirondacks are closer to reality, as the Open Space Institute announced the acquisition of another connecting parcel in Warren County.
The 1,260 acres is in the Town of Lake Luzerne, west of Queensbury’s West Mountain Ski area. It is located between the southeastern edge of the Adirondack Park and Moreau Lake State Park, and next to Ralph Road State Forest. The parcel also provides habitat links to Vermont’s Green Mountains.
“In fast growing regions like Warren County, it is becoming rarer to find a property of this size that exemplifies the many … benefits of protected land—supporting clean water, wildlife habitat, recreation, and the storage of carbon to help fight climate change,” said Kim Elliman, president and CEO of OSI, in a news release.
OSI, which purchased the property for $975,000 from a private corporation called VFC Partners 18, plans to transfer the property to the state Department of Environmental Conservation. Then it will become part of the Ralph Road State Forest tract.
The nonprofit has agreed to continue paying taxes on the parcel, which in 2019 totaled about $21,000.
OSI does not currently have a management plan for the new acquisition, but the organization said it hopes to develop existing trails. DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos highlighted how the property will “connect visitors with the countless recreational opportunities at the Ralph Road State Forest and elsewhere in the Lake Luzerne area.”
“OSI’s West Mountain acquisition provides a potential trail linkage from the Palmertown Range into the Adirondack Park via Ralph Road State Forest, making an off-road trail connection from Saratoga Springs to the Adirondack Park one step closer to reality,” said a spokesperson for OSI.
Motorized vehicle use is not allowed on the property, and hunting is not permitted at this time.
OSI and the DEC touted the property’s potential for combatting climate change, too.
Considering the land is predominantly forest, OSI said it plays an important role in sequestering carbon dioxide.
The Nature Conservancy has a modeling system to measure climate resilience. The model recognized the West Mountain property as “above average” in its ability to “support a diverse array of plants and animals even as the climate changes,” according to a news release.
The parcel is in the Hudson River watershed and contains a local stream called Bennie Brook. There is a great blue heron rookery on site. OSI also identified the area as prime habitat for deer, turkey, bear and bobcat.