WPC Protects Two Properties Along Great Allegheny Passage

Mon, Dec 16th 2013, 11:00. Filed under News Releases.

Confluence, Pa. – Dec. 16 – The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy has purchased two properties along the Great Allegheny Passage, capping off a year in which the Conservancy, with these two acquisitions, has protected 18 properties.

The two recent purchases in Somerset County preserve hillside views surrounding Confluence, one of the centerpiece communities along the Great Allegheny Passage – also known as the GAP trail. The acquisitions enhance the hiking and biking trail that the Conservancy helped create more than 35 years ago and provide access to the nearby Casselman River, WPC announced today.

The Conservancy purchased the 49-acre forested property in Confluence and a 96-acre parcel that sits in both Confluence and Lower Turkeyfoot Township. The GAP trail either borders or runs through both Somerset County properties. Both sites contain frontage along the Casselman River; the larger property will provide public access between the GAP trail and the river.

“December is a fun time in the land conservation business, because many of our key acquisitions close then. This year, the Conservancy has protected diverse properties, such as ones in Erie, French Creek, Ligonier Valley and these two wonderful properties along the Great Allegheny Passage,” said Tom Saunders, WPC’s president and chief executive officer. “Thirty-five years ago, so many people had such vision to begin the acquisitions for the GAP trail from Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C. Now that it’s complete, it’s exciting to be able to acquire and protect some of the key vistas along the trail.”

The Conservancy received help from state partners and private funders during the acquisitions, Saunders said. WPC, the state, key foundations and other partners identified priority land conservation opportunities along the GAP trail, based on their high level of visibility, use by the public and their proximity to the Casselman River.

The smaller parcel borders a section of the GAP trail just before it crosses the Casselman River into Confluence. It encompasses most of a scenic hill, so any development there would be highly visible from Confluence and the trail.

A mile-and-a-half section of the GAP trail passes directly through the larger property as the trail enters Confluence from the east.

“A 50-lot residential development had been planned for the property about 10 years ago,” said Michael Knoop, a land protection and planning manager at the Conservancy. “Fortunately, the landowner chose to sell the property to WPC for conservation purposes.”

Since the 1950s, the Conservancy has protected more than 81,000 acres of priority land in the Laurel Highlands. In the late 1970s, WPC purchased the first property that would become part of the GAP trail – a 27-mile stretch from Connellsville to Confluence – from the Western Maryland Railway Company. Nine miles of trail from Ohiopyle to Ramcat, near Confluence, were opened in 1986. The trail now stretches 150 miles from Cumberland, Md., to Pittsburgh.

Financial support for the project came from the family of B. Kenneth Simon, Pennsylvania’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Community Conservation Partnerships Program, the Nimick Forbesway Foundation and the Katherine Mabis McKenna Foundation.

The Conservancy plans to own and manage the properties for public use and the protection of conservation values. The Conservancy’s Benjamin Holland Memorial Stewardship Fund will support stewardship expenses.

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About the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy:
The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy (WPC) enhances the region’s quality of life by protecting and restoring exceptional places. A private nonprofit conservation organization founded in 1932, WPC has helped to establish ten state parks, conserved more than 235,000 acres of natural lands and protected or restored more than 1,500 miles of rivers and streams. The Conservancy owns and operates Fallingwater, which symbolizes people living in harmony with nature. In addition, WPC enriches our region’s cities and towns through 135 community gardens and greenspaces that are planted with the help of 13,000 volunteers. The work of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy is accomplished through the support of more than 11,000 members. For more information, visit WaterLandLife.org.

Media contact:
Allison Schlesinger
412-586-2358 (office)
412-607-1945 (cell)
aschlesinger@paconserve.org