Saratoga Springs Votes for Open Space (NY)

Saratoga Springs, NY, 11/8/02By voting to approve Proposition 1, the voters of Saratoga Springs have shown their clear support for preserving the special character of their community. The proposition was the final step needed to enact a local law that the City Council unanimously approved in July of 2001. Local Law #5 puts in place a comprehensive Environmental, Parks and Open Areas Protection Program and a mechanism to fund land acquisition—but it required voter approval to take effect.

As the local law goes into effect, the next step will be the creation by the City Council of a seven-member advisory committee to advise the council on priority lands and natural resources for purchase. The program also allows the City Council to bond up to $5 million dollars for these land preservation projects, which include recreation areas, neighborhood parks, farmland and trails.

In the 16 months since the initial passage of Local Law #5, a coalition of individuals and organizations called Vote Yes! for Community Land Preservation has joined together to advocate for the referendum. “Vote Yes! has mobilized hundreds of volunteers who have worked tirelessly to educate and involve the community to make Saratoga Springs the first city in upstate New York to take positive action to preserve the welcoming gateways, parks and recreational opportunities in our beautiful city,” said Jeff Olson, a member of the Vote Yes! Steering committee.

When Vote Yes! volunteers met with the citizens of Saratoga Springs they encountered widespread interest “to increase the number of recreation fields, neighborhood parks, and trails that make the city a joy to live, work and visit! The Trust for Public Land, the Westside Neighborhood Association, the Saratoga Springs Open Space Project, The Saratoga Preservation Foundation, American Farmland Trust, the Land Trust of the Saratoga Region and many other key community organizations and leaders actively supported the referendum because they know that preserving open areas and green space increases property values and enhances Saratoga Spring’s quality of life,” Olson added.

“The success of this bond referendum is a huge victory for the citizens of Saratoga Springs. It will also be an inspiration and example for other communities in Saratoga County—and throughout New York State–that want to fund local open space protection,” said Chris Wells, Director of Conservation Finance at the Trust for Public Land.

With the passage of the referendum, there are now several actions the City Council can take to preserve the character and quality of the city. The Environmental, Parks and Open Areas Protection Program will be a vehicle for nonprofit organizations, landowners and the City Council “to form active partnerships to preserve our community treasures,” according to Alane Ball Chinian, a member of the Vote Yes! Steering committee and Executive Director of the Saratoga Springs Open Space Project.

Chinian explained, “the funds secured through bonding can be used to leverage matching dollars from county, state and federal sources to ensure that the city can continue to provide these scenic and outdoor amenities to residents and tourists alike.”

“It took over a decade of hard work by many organizations and countless volunteers to get us to this point—now the City of Saratoga Springs will have the resources needed to implement the Open Space Plan approved by the City Council. We were delighted to see the incredible passion the citizens of Saratoga Springs showed for this efforts to strengthen their city’s vibrant economy, its thriving downtown and reputation as a wonderful place to raise a family, operate a business, vacation, retire or just enjoy,” added Chinian.

“We were delighted to see that the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors announced financial commitments for land protection last week. We also applaud efforts by our neighbors in Malta and Clifton Park who are also championing the importance of land preservation and are exploring ways to generate funding,” said Beth Herhshenhart, a local business owner and a member of Vote Yes! Steering Committee.