Protecting a National Natural Landmark

As we celebrate our 75th Anniversary in 2007, the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy reflects on one of its earliest projects, securing and protecting McConnells Mill. Perhaps best known for the spectacular beauty of the Slippery Rock Creek gorge, nearly 1,000 acres of what was to become a National Natural Landmark was owned by The Pennsylvania Power Company. When initially contacted by the Conservancy, they let it be known that they had already invested more than $100,000 on the property. This figure was well out of reach for a non-profit conservation organization, especially in 1952 dollars. Still, Pennsylvania Power President Lou Round was hopeful he could sway his shareholders to see the public relations benefits of selling below market value in the name of protecting nature.

WPC Board Secretary Dr. M. Graham Netting related that he was asked to meet with Round at his New Castle office on October 27, 1952, but when he arrived he was dismayed to discover that Round had been called out of town. Netting was handed a memo that he said made the trip eminently worthwhile. The memo from Round said Pennsylvania Power would sell the land to the Conservancy for $30,000, a figure well below its appraised worth. The memo said the firms attorneys were busy working on all the necessary paperwork.

There was concern at the time that the deal be finalized quickly, as Round was scheduled to retire later that year and a new president might not have been as enamored with a negative cash-flow land transfer in the name of conservation.

Pictured standing left to right are A.W. Schmidt, of the A.W. Mellon Educational and Charitable Trust who helped secure funding for the project and Dr. M. Graham Netting, Secretary, Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. Seated from left to right are Louis B. Round, president, Pennsylvania Power Company and Charles F. Chubb, president, the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. Mr. Chubb was WPCs second president and served from 1946 to 1956.

The Conservancy would sell this and other tracts it held to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, but only on the condition that the emphasis be on conservation of the land first, with hiking and camping limited to areas designated by the Conservancy. It would take another three years before all issues were settled and McConnells Mill State Park came to be. The Conservancy continued to secure land for the area, as recently as 1984. Today the park encompasses 2,546 acres.

To learn more about the interesting stories behind WPCs 75-year history of conservation in western Pennsylvania, visit our website at


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