Graphite Range Community Forest offers 5 miles of trails; connects to wildlife corridor
By Mike Lynch
For the first time, Saratoga County has its own federally-designated community forest.
The 202-acre Graphite Range Community Forest opened to the public earlier this month, providing outdoor enthusiasts with more than 5 miles of recreation trails.
Located off of Route 9 in the towns of Greenfield and Wilton, the land is just a few miles north of downtown Saratoga Springs and 10 miles from the Adirondack Park.
The land is home to historic graphite mines and was most recently owned by the Winter family, which sold it to Saratoga County this fall for about $460,000, according to the nonprofit Open Space Institute (OSI).
OSI’s Land Project Manager Tatum Justice said the land had been appraised at $635,000 but the Winter family sold it as a “bargain sale.”
Saratoga PLAN, a nonprofit land trust which now stewards the property, and OSI played key roles in making the transaction happen, including securing a $391,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture through the community forest program.
Rob Davies, executive director of Saratoga PLAN, said that “resource protection” was his organization’s primary reason for helping secure this land. He said it’s part of the southeastern Adirondack foothills and part of a key wildlife corridor between the Adirondacks and Green Mountains in Vermont. It’s part of a larger area known as the Palmertown Range.
“The Palmertown Range, the Adirondack foothills where this project falls, has been found by The Nature Conservancy in their climate resiliency study to be one of the highest resilient landscapes in the state in terms of wildlife migration and corridors, which are going to be more and more important as we see the climate change,” Davies said.
He also touted its recreational opportunities, which include mountain biking, hiking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and birding.
“It’s part of the Adirondack foothills, but it’s right in the backyards of Saratoga residents,” he said.
The land is part of a planned recreation corridor between Saratoga Springs and Moreau State Park.
One of the criteria set forth in the federal grant was to create an advisory board that included local residents, who could guide management decisions about recreation, safety and other issues.
Saratoga County resident Molly Kalil, who has a family-run outdoor recreation business for kids, is a member of that committee.
“I think it gave a really well-rounded approach to thinking about the different types of users that Graphite Range would accommodate and how to best serve all those different demographics,” she said.
OSI has worked on about two-dozen community forest projects in the Northeast and helped guide the process.
“It’s just essential to recognize that these community forests represent what we consider at OSI, the best of conservation,” Justice said.
Photo at top: The Graphite Range Community Forest is home to more than 5 miles of trails. Photo by James Odato
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