Friday, November 27, 2020

Saratoga PLAN opens former dog-sled training grounds as public trails

This Thanksgiving weekend, Saratoga PLAN will be opening their latest public trail system, the Barkersville Trails, located in the Towns of Galway and Providence. Formerly grounds for sled-dog training, the Barkersville Trails are still privately owned by Dolores Arste and her husband David Hickey, and consist of relatively flat to hilly terrain, with winding pathways through moss-covered boulders and brooks.

“The Barkersville land has a special feeling about it. Once immersed in the land, one can feel it,” says property owner Dolores Arste. The two conserved their 168-acre property last year with Saratoga PLAN, entrusting them to protect the area and restrict development, while allowing public access on a portion of the land in the form of trails. PLAN retains the right to maintain those trails and they invite the public to use them. “We hope that it brings joy to those who travel the trails,” Arste said.

“We had a good time exploring the property over all the seasons for a year or more before deciding where to locate the trails,” says Maria Trabka, PLAN’s executive director. “The property lends itself to a variety of experiences. One unique feature of the Barkersville Trails is that we hope to be able to extend the trails eventually so that they can accommodate equestrian use. Dolores loved riding in these woods, and horseback riding will be a new venture for Saratoga PLAN trails.”

Initially a ribbon cutting ceremony was planned Thanksgiving weekend to celebrate the opening of the trails, but due to the surge in COVID-19 cases, this is no longer possible. Saratoga PLAN canceled the ceremony, but the trails will still be opening Thanksgiving weekend to the public, and visitors are encouraged to explore them to their hearts content. Saratoga PLAN does ask however you practice social distancing and bring a mask. Dogs must be leashed and blaze orange outerwear is recommended as hunting season is in progress.

“While we have been excitedly anticipating the chance to share the experience of opening the trails with everyone who helped make them possible, we thought it prudent to avoid potentially exposing one another by gathering in one place at the same time, even though it is outdoors. Trails provide an important and enjoyable way to support public health and we don’t want to jeopardize the well-being of our community especially at this time,” said Trabka. “We are hoping that people will send us photos from their visits to Barkersville Trails or post them on social media so that our community can at least share our experiences on the trails virtually.”

Saratoga PLAN needs to raise an additional $9,000 to cover the costs of conserving the land and constructing the trails. Donations can be made online at saratogaplan.org/donate, by calling 518-587-5554, or by mailing a check to Saratoga PLAN, 112 Spring Street, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866. Saratoga PLAN is a charitable 501(c)3 organization and all donations are tax deductible to the fullest extent.

The Barkersville Trails were made possible by the generous contributions of Dolores Arste, David Hickey, Dockstader Charitable Trust, Saratoga County, Miller Family Charitable Fund, Town of Galway, Monday Stewards, Death Wish Coffee, and many donors and volunteers who came together to create this wonderful place for all to enjoy.

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