By LEIGH HORNBECK
The Palmertown Range, a stretch of land that reaches from Saratoga Springs to Fort Ticonderoga, is ideal for a trail system that would connect northern Saratoga County to the Adirondack Mountains.
People interested in such a trail gathered Sept. 27 at Skidmore College, where the first Palmertown Range bike trails were created in the woods on and next to campus in the early 2000s—before New York State acquired the land now known as the Daniels Road Forest.
Jeff Olson, a principal at Alta Planning and Design, hired by Saratoga PLAN to create a Palmertown report, urged the crowd to look at paying for the project in a new way by selling bonds and bringing in investors.
“It’s time to stop funding projects and start financing them,” Olson said. “We’ve done every bake sale we can do. We need to change the mindset.”
Olson invited Seth Brown, a director with Quantified Ventures, a Washington- based investment firm, to explain how it could be done. Brew pubs, coffee shops, bike shops and ice cream stands naturally spring up around multiuse trails, Brown said. Why not capitalize on the eventuality to finance the trail?
As an example of the financing he described, Brown gave the history of a trail in the works in southeastern Ohio, the 88-mile-long Baileys Mountain Bike Trail.
The idea for trails in the Palmertown Range, said Maria Trabka, executive director of Saratoga PLAN (Preserving Land and Nature) emerged 15 years ago from the Saratoga County Green Plan. The hope was to connect Saratoga Springs to the Moreau Lake State Park and its thousands of acres. The state park has grown since then due to land acquisitions by the Open Space Institute. Saratoga Springs developed a trail system, and in 2017 Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a proposal to connect Manhattan to Lake Champlain and Buffalo to Albany with a multiuse trail, making use of 400 acres of existing trail segments.
Crossing the Hudson River to reach the Adirondacks remains an open question. Olson said a robotic ferry is one potential solution.
Behind the scenes, OSI has continued to broker deals for easements to make way for the trail. Recently, Saratoga PLAN put together money from a mixture of sources to pay a part-time coordinator for the Palmertown Range project.
The Palmertown Range is attractive to conservationists for several reasons. Studies by the Open Space Institute shows it offers migrating animals like moose and black bear a connection between the Adirondacks, the Green and White mountains and north into Maine. It also scores high on the “terrestrial resilience” scale, which means plants and animals there have good opportunities to adjust to climate change. Preservation of the Palmertown wilderness increases Saratoga County’s ability to withstand floods and other weather events associated with climate change.