A Perfect PLAN to Walk Off Thanksgiving Diner!

Barkersville Trails Open Next Weekend

On the cover: Sign-maker Kendra Schieber

GALWAY – Beginning Thanksgiving weekend, trail adventurers can explore 2.5 miles of Barkersville Trails in the Towns of Galway and Providence, the newest addition to Saratoga PLAN’s public trails.

The trails’ terrain varies from relatively flat to hilly. Hiking paths narrow and expand as they wind to and from babbling brooks. Moss-covered boulders rise from the earth and fields of fern perfume the air. Songbirds and coyotes sing.

“The Barkersville land has a special feeling about it. Once immersed in the land, one can feel it,” says property owner Dolores Arste.

Arste and her husband, David Hickey, conserved their 168-acre property in 2019 with the help of Saratoga PLAN, a local land trust. Arste and Hickey entrusted Saratoga PLAN to ensure that the woodlands, wetlands, and streams are protected in perpetuity. A legally-enforceable conservation easement restricts development and uses on the land while it continues to be privately owned and managed by Arste and Hickey.

As part of the conservation agreement, Arste and Hickey made the decision to allow public access on a portion of the land. PLAN has the right to maintain trails and invite the public to use them. “We hope that it brings joy to those who travel the trails,” Arste said.

Volunteers get a bridge ready for you!

“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.”

The aptly named Barkersville Trails were formerly grounds for sled-dog training. Arste and Hickey bred and trained Siberians on the land, their first home-bred litter producing several leaders. “Parrish was a super leader. She continued to race into her later years and loved to lead the puppy teams as she got older,” Arste explains. Arste was also a professional handler and breeder of Champion Schipperkes. She reflects, “Derby was a winner in three countries. He won Best of Breed at New York’s prestigious Westminster Kennel Club.” To commemorate their most beloved dogs, two trails in Barkersville have been dubbed Parrish Trail and Derby Path.

Due to the pandemic’s isolating effects, people have been flocking to outdoor spaces for reasons ranging from exercise to a simple breath of fresh air. As a result, parks, preserves, trails and other outdoor areas have grown increasingly important in people’s daily dose of looking out for their mental and physical health. “We hope that the new Barkersville Trails offer added respite for the public,” explains Alex Fylypovych, PLAN’s community engagement manager. “With the trail opening Thanksgiving weekend, individuals have one more reason to stay close to home for this holiday for the sake of everyone’s health and safety.”

Due to the spike in recent Covid19 cases, Saratoga PLAN canceled the ribbon-cutting celebration that had been planned for Thanksgiving weekend. The trails will still be ready and open to the public and visitors are encouraged to explore them on their own and walk off that extra slice of pie. Saratoga PLAN asks that all visitors bring a mask and practice social distancing while enjoying the new trail network. Four-legged companions must be leashed, and, with hunting season in progress on adjacent properties, blaze orange outerwear is recommended for both two and four-legged trail adventurers.

“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, many donors and volunteers who came together to create this wonderful place for all to enjoy.

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