Saratoga County horse park plans plod ahead

"Some of the economic development that comes with a horse park is really where the community benefits. Developers would be coming to us," she said. "For the county and the state as a whole, that's extra sales tax revenue."

Southworth said the most significant challenges would be ensuring the town could maintain its character and simply finding a big enough space for a park.

Finding a location is one of the issues left unresolved, and Markin is examining sites in Saratoga Springs, Moreau, Milton, Ballston, Schuylerville and Charlton.

Markin is considering a variety of criteria when considering location, including proximity to support services, ease of access and the character of the surrounding land. A number of survey respondents suggested the horse park should be accessible by horse trails. And of course, the site will have to be sizable; horse parks can require anywhere from 200 to 1,000 acres of land.

Finding the money for that space is the barrier that comes to mind for Marsha Himler, a local equine enthusiast and president of the New York Horse Park group, which has long been advocating for a Saratoga County facility.

"One of the problems in Saratoga is going to be the cost of the land," she said. "Anytime you have to put up thousands of dollars an acre you're going to be faced with a tough row to hoe."

She cited examples when state money was used to buy land for horse parks in New Jersey and Kentucky, and noted that while horse parks don't tend to turn profits, they provide the surrounding area with a large economic boost. She hopes that like these, a Saratoga horse park would be a draw statewide, not just locally.

The final findings from Markin are expected to be finished and ready for presentation on November 10. That does not mean that a horse park is a certainty even if the results are favorable, however. Still, Himler thinks a facility in such a horse-friendly area is inevitable.

"I think we will eventually have a horse park here in New York state, but just like anywhere else is hasn't happened overnight," she said.""

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