Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn Thursday joined Western PA Conservancy representatives, Bureau of State Parks officials and others in formally dedicating a major addition to Laurel Hill State Park in Somerset County.
Complemented by a lodge and several other buildings, the 184-acre Scenic View at Laurel Hill in Middlecreek Township adjoins Laurel Hill State Park and offers scenic views and significant wildlife and watershed protection.
“Major acquisitions and additions like this to our state park system are not commonplace, and we extend hearty thanks to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, the Colcom Foundation and others who worked so hard to obtain what we are appreciating here today,” said Dunn. “To be sure, Laurel Hill State Park visitors will embrace Scenic View, but its wildlife and area watershed will be protected for generations to come.”
The Western PA Conservancy transferred the property -- along with buildings and facilities -- to DCNR’s Bureau of State Parks to become a permanent addition to Laurel Hill State Park. The state park now consists of more than 4,200 acres of mountainous terrain and hosts 15 miles of hiking trails.
“This acquisition accentuates the value of long-time DCNR partnerships with WPC and other conservancies, drawn together by the shared goal of land conservation,” Dunn noted. “With its acreage, pond and combination of buildings, Scenic View will make Laurel Hill State Park shine even brighter as one of many natural gems of the Laurel Highlands.”
The $1.024 million cost was subsidized in part by grants from DCNR, the Colcom Foundation and the Richard King Mellon Foundation.
“Laurel Hill State Park is one of the really exceptional state parks in the Laurel Highlands. It has great trails and beautiful views, and Laurel Hill Creek is one of the premier streams in the Laurel Highlands,” said Tom Saunders, president and CEO of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. ”This new property adds a scenic overlook, sweeping views and over 180 acres of protected land to the park. The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy has protected over 83,000 acres in the Laurel Highlands and is glad to help with this key addition to the state park.”
The property was purchased from Penn Scenic View Inc. and had been owned by the William Penn Association, a Pittsburgh-area Hungarian-American fraternal organization and life insurance agency.
In addition to its scenic vistas, the property has important conservation value. It is part of the adjoining Laurel Hill State Park Natural Heritage Area where the floodplain forest of Laurel Hill Creek, wetlands and slopes support a number of state rare species, including the endangered Appalachian blue violet.
The partially forested tract also is located within Pennsylvania Audubon Society’s Youghiogheny Valley/Ohiopyle State Park Important Bird Area (IBA), offering needed wildlife habitat and breeding grounds for a wide variety of migrating birds, including species dependent on habitats within forests and near waterways.
This newly conserved forested land buffers a tributary to Laurel Hill Creek and further complements efforts to safeguard water quality of the main stem of the creek, which was listed in 2009 as one of the 10 most endangered waterways in the country by the conservation group American Rivers.
Evaluating the property and its infrastructure, the Bureau of State Parks is developing an operational plan for the new section of the park in which visitors’ safety is a top priority. Sections of Scenic View will be opened to the public in phases when it can be assured visitors will have a safe, pleasant experience.
Involvement in the Scenic View acquisition is in line with the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy’s long history of land protection in the Laurel Highlands. Since 1951, it has been instrumental in protecting more than 83,300 acres.
Laurel Hill State Park serves as a base of operations for a three-park complex, comprised of Laurel Hill, Laurel Ridge and Kooser state parks, all in Somerset County.For more information, visit DCNR’s website, Click Here to sign up for the Resource newsletter, Click Here to be part of DCNR’s Online Community, Click Here to hook up with DCNR on other social media-- Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr.