Friday, September 26, 2014

Westmoreland Land Trust: 5 Years Of Preserving Open Space

The Westmoreland Land Trust is hosting a celebration on October 3 marking the nonprofit organization’s fifth anniversary of acquiring open space for the citizens of Westmoreland County…and officially turning its latest acquisitions, three parcels totaling 74.8 acres, over to Murrysville to expand the municipality’s Duff Park.
“The Pieces Are Coming Together” celebration will be held in the pavilion at Duff Park, beginning at 11 a.m.  Officials from the Westmoreland Land Trust, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, and the Municipality of Murrysville will present a brief program.  Light refreshments will be served, followed by walking tours of the park.  The event is open to the public and will be held rain or shine.
The Westmoreland Land Trust’s three most recently acquired parcels increase the size of Duff Park by some 45 percent, from approximately 162 acres to 237 acres, and bring the young organization’s total county-wide preservation efforts to 184 acres in five distinct communities.  The Westmoreland Land Trust to-date has acquired:
-- The 59-acre Otto and Magdalene Ackermann Nature Preserve in Ardara, North Huntingdon Township,
-- 22 acres in Murrysville adjacent to the Lillian Kellman Nature Reserve,*
-- 21 acres in Rostraver Township along the Youghiogheny River,
-- 3.5 acres in the City of Greensburg near Cabin Hill Drive,
-- 4 acres in Ligonier Township along Route 30 (conserved in partnership with the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy and the Loyalhanna Watershed Association),
-- 9 acres in Murrysville adjacent to Duff Park,
--16.5 acres in Murrysville adjacent to Duff Park (a property formerly known as the Norbitrol Plan of Lots), and
-- 49 acres in Murrysville adjacent to Duff Park and accessible from Round Top Road.
“Preserving upwards of 200 acres in our first five years of existence is a significant accomplishment,” said Charles Duritsa, chair of the organization that was formed in 2007 to preserve land of special value in Westmoreland County.
The Westmoreland Land Trust accomplished its latest acquisitions by purchasing two properties from private owners, Cynthia Yerick and RDE Land Co., LLC, with grant funds from the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
The third property was donated by longtime Murrysville residents Theo and Pia van de Venne, and served as the required match for the DCNR grant.  All three parcels of new parkland will benefit area residents and visitors in perpetuity.
Duff Park is an extraordinary natural area that has been designated as a Pennsylvania Wild Plant Sanctuary.  It also is home of one of Pennsylvania’s few remaining deciduous old-growth forests areas (with trees of estimated age of 215 to 240 years).  Many visit Duff Park to enjoy its forest and native wildflowers, numerous walking trails, and scenic views overlooking Turtle Creek.
In the not-too-distant future, visitors to Duff Park will also be able to enjoy use of a recreational rail trail, with the construction of the Turtle Creek Trail, which will run alongside Turtle Creek from the western edge of Lincoln Avenue in Export to Trafford, passing through Murrysville, Monroeville, and Penn Township along the way.  The Westmoreland Land Trust  is a partner in the Turtle Creek Trail project.  
The organization also sponsored a team in the “March for Parks” fundraiser this past spring, contributing nearly $2,000 of the $33,000 raised for this 9.5-mile trail project, and placing among the top 10 fundraising teams.
The Westmoreland Land Trust is an independent, nonprofit, all-volunteer organization that seeks to preserve a wide variety of types of land, including:
-- Land that offers scenic vistas,
-- Tracts that help to create larger greenway corridors through Westmoreland County,
-- Land that has ecological, historical, or cultural value, and
-- Sensitive areas that are under pressure for development.
For more information, visit the Westmoreland Land Trust website.

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