What is the Sarah B. Foulke Friendship Trail initiative?

The Sarah B. Foulke Friendship Trails, more commonly known as the “Friendship Trails,” are a planned network of trails in Northern Saratoga County that will include a variety of outdoor activities and experiences.

The proposed trail system will be located between Routes 9 and 9N, roughly a triangle between Saratoga Springs, the Village of Corinth, and the Village of South Glens Falls. The mostly forested area is also known as the Palmertown Range.

The Friendship Trail Network will use existing trails and establish new ones in partnership with interested landowners and communities. People can already walk, hike, fish, or hunt at Moreau Lake State Park, Daniels Road State Forest, and Lincoln Mountain State Forest.

Saratoga PLAN, in partnership with a community-based Palmertown Guidance Committee and a nationally respected design team led by Penn Trails, is working to create a Master Plan for an inclusive and welcoming trail system in the spirit of friendship.

To do that, we are talking with a variety of community organizations to ensure that diverse perspectives and needs are reflected in the design of the trail system.

What are the goals of the Friendship Trails?

The overall goal of the project is to provide trails for a wide range of people and experiences, including walking, hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, cross country skiing, paddling, and snowmobiling.

The Friendship Trails Initiative seeks to connect people to each other and to nature in a welcoming and inclusive manner.

We are therefore working to support and inspire appreciation of the importance of nature for our health and well-being, local economy, and way of life, as well as for natural areas and wildlife.

Even in Saratoga County, not everyone has access to trails close to home, or feels welcome on trails that are nearby. We recognize there is a lack of inclusive, long distance trails within the County and that many of the trails are not accessible to a variety of people.

How is this project unique?

What makes these trails unique is the emphasis on friendship, building community, connecting people from all walks of life to nature and to each other and the inclusive process we are undertaking to hear from a wide variety of people in our community.

We believe that everyone deserves the opportunity to enjoy time outdoors, understanding that diverse communities and groups engage with the outdoors in different ways and for different reasons. When more people have more meaningful experiences outdoors, their quality of life, health, and social well-being improve and in turn their communities become stronger and more sustainable.

This project is a step towards increasing opportunities for more people to access trails in a variety of settings and uses. The trails will be designed with the following principles:

  1. All people should have the opportunity to have positive experiences outdoors, regardless of where they live or their social or economic status.
  2. When we make the benefits of outdoor experiences accessible to everyone, throughout the region, we build stronger connections and communities.
  3. The health and well-being of people and their communities are improved when people connect and thrive outdoors.
  4.  People of all ages deserve opportunities to learn in, thrive in, and appreciate the outdoors, so they can become informed and engaged champions for our natural resources.
  5. Time spent in nature positively contributes to human well-being, providing a respite from the stress of modern life.

How will the process be inclusive?

To ensure the trail master plan reflects the needs and desires of various communities, groups, and users, we will be connecting with a variety of community organizations in the region that have not yet provided feedback to ensure that their perspectives and needs are reflected in the design and development of the trail system.

We are working to ensure that vocal interests are not overrepresented, nor quiet interests underrepresented, by consulting demographic data and reaching out to others with an interest in the outdoors to ask how this project might benefit the community as a

We are engaging community groups, as well as local landowners, by reaching out to them to talk about the project and their outdoor experiences, rather than expecting them to come to us.

We have identified nearly 100 community groups to potentially involve in the trail master plan, including schools, food pantries, veteran􀂶s groups, community centers, senior groups, social service, and religious organizations.

We will talk with representatives from some of these groups over the next few months to share the vision for the project and listen to their concerns and experiences.

We will also share an online survey to hear from as many people as possible to learn more about their outdoor experiences: what they do outside, where they go, who they go with, and what keeps them from doing more outside.

What will the Friendship Trails be like?

The Friendship Trails will include a variety of outdoor activities designed to accommodate a range of users and abilities.

Some trails may be wooded paths that are accessible to outdoor wheelchairs, while others may have “hard-pack” crushed stone surfaces suitable for walkers, traditional wheelchairs, and strollers. There will also be rugged trails designed for mountain bikers,
equestrians, and hikers.

The regional trail system will reflect different landscape characteristics that connect people to the outdoors through both state-owned lands and privately conserved lands.

What is the Friendship Trails Master Plan?

This year, Saratoga PLAN, in partnership with the Palmertown Guidance Committee, trail designers Penn Trails, Tahawus Trails, and Wilderness Property Management and community engagement specialists Strong Outcomes and Community Consultants will be creating an overall trail master plan that factors in design characteristics including accessibility, costs, and experiences.

The plan will identify locations for many types of trail users and activities, from walking on a woodland path that is accessible to people of all abilities to trails designed to address the needs of mountain bikers, equestrians, and hikers.

The planning effort will also address how people get to the trails, seeking to recommend parking and trail entrances to meet the needs of users with diverse mobility and transportation needs.

The Friendship Trail Master Plan is expected to be complete by Spring 2021. The Plan will determine where the Friendship Trails can be appropriately sited, which recreational uses can be supported in each area, and long-term management expectations. The Master Plan will also include locations for parking and trail heads to increase public access to the trail network. Planners will subsequently design site-specific trail networks for properties with willing landowners, both public organizations and privately owned.

We anticipate hosting several community meetings to discuss the master plan drafts along the way. Once the design and planning are completed, new trails will be built as funding is secured. Volunteers will help build and maintain the trails, building even more opportunities for friendship.

What has happened in the past, what is happening now, regarding the trails?

The Friendship Trails Initiative builds upon the larger vision of the 2018 Southern Palmertown Conservation and Recreation Strategy, which you can view on Saratoga PLAN’s website. The vision for the Palmertown Range is to establish the area as a regional recreation destination and bolster its economic development while conserving critically important natural resources.

The Palmertown Guidance Committee that oversees the Sarah B. Foulke Friendship Trails project includes representatives from all seven municipalities in the region, the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation, the Open Space Institute, and Skidmore College.

Over the past several years, Saratoga PLAN and its partners reached out to conservation and recreation groups users such as hikers, mountain bikers, equestrians,
and birdwatchers to identify what types of trails and outdoor experiences would be of interest to their constituencies.

How is this project being financed?

A generous donation of $500,000 from the Sarah B. Foulke Charitable Trust is funding the trail Master Plan, including the community engagement work. The implementation of the trails, and trail improvements, will require additional fundraising from grants and community members.

You don’t have to wait to enjoy trails in this area. If you’d like to get outside in nature, there are already wonderful public trails that will become
part of the Friendship Trails network at Moreau Lake State Park and Daniels Road State Forest.

Thank you for your interest.

For more information or if you have questions feel free to call or email Maria Trabka (maria@saratogaplan.org; 518-587-5554) at Saratoga PLAN.