Agreement? What agreement?
On Monday morning, I called Maria Trabka, the executive director of P.L.A.N. to try to understand why there was no signage for the West Trail on Saratoga National Golf Course other than the map at the parking lot and to better understand what was going on with the trail. She was quite gracious but said that she knew little of the details regarding the trail. She said that Devin Rigolino was PLAN’s Stewardship coordinator and that he was in a meeting at that moment but she would have him call me. She wanted to know more about who I was and I told her I was a blogger and I would email her my information, including my telephone number immediately following our conversation.
I then told her that I had understood from remarks made by Michael Toohey that PL.A.N. had agreed to handle the easement for the proposed expansion of Saratoga National Golf Course. She told me that she had had no conversations with anyone on this. I noted to her that in looking at their mission to preserve farmland and other sensitive areas that protecting a golf course seemed a bit afield. She responded that they were concerned about maintaining open space and that it would seem that doing so would be in their mission.
I mentioned this to a friend who offered to review the video of Michael Toohey’s presentation to see precisely what he had said. I was enormously grateful because Toohey’s presentations are painfully dull and unfocused. This particular presentation went on for at least thirty-five minutes.
The Proverbial Smoking Gun
What they found was the following statement by Michael Toohey. He was promising the Planning Board at its August 12 meeting that Saratoga National Golf Course was going to be part of creating a bike path that would be integrated as part of a city wide system :
“We can create path systems throughout our land that will be monitored by Saratoga Plan… We already have letters from Saratoga PLAN that say they would be willing to take the conservation easements that we are proposing. That’s already in place. So that can be done to make sure that it’s not us monitoring this or political entity monitoring this but in fact a well-known and highly respected environmental group. Those things are already in place.”
To view M. Toohey making this statement, select this link. Michael Toohey’s Statement Move the timer pointer to 36:35.
A Bike Path Through Their Golf Course?
First let me say that Saratoga National Golf Course is a beautiful and as impressive as its owners have described it. On the day I wandered along the golf cart thoroughfares looking for the “nature trail”, I saw people dressed in classic golf clothing looking quite dapper consistent with their surroundings. I was dressed neatly in a solid blue tee shirt and olive cargo shorts with brown leather clogs. To give you an idea as to how much I stood out, I was asked twice by people if they could help me.
I find it hard to believe in light of the image of this golf course that they want hikers walking on golf cart thoroughfares through the center of their course. I find it even more stunning that they may be thinking of having bike riders share these thoroughfares with golf carts.
Later that afternoon, when I had not heard from Mr. Rigolino, I called PLAN. As it happens, he answered the phone. I told him of my difficulty in finding the West Trail. He told me that there was a sign in a stand of trees on the course. I explained to him that because the fairways were not marked, I was unable to successfully negotiate the trail so I never found the sign he was referencing. I noted to him that the easement agreement with the golf course required clear signage. I asked him how much of the “nature trail” was tarmac golf cart thoroughfare? He said about two thirds of it. I asked him why the map at the parking lot did not match the easement map. He expressed surprise and told me he thought the path was pretty much what was agreed upon with the easement. I asked him about the bathrooms called for in the easement. He said that the public could use the bathrooms in the clubhouse. I noted that the nature trail that went to Lake Lonely was quite remote from the clubhouse. He indicated that putting such buildings on the trails would be intrusive which I had to agree with.
I then suggested that to clear this up as much as is possible, could he take me on a tour of the trail. He said he had a busy schedule and he would have to get back to me. I asked him if he could indicate approximately by when he might do this. After a pause, I asked him if he could get back to me by Thursday and he agreed to do that.
I have emailed Michael Toohey asking if I might have a copy of the letter of agreement from PLAN to do an easement of their golf course as part of their expansion.