Fans of Duff Park soon will have much more nature to enjoy, thanks to the efforts of the Westmoreland Land Trust and the generosity of long-time Murrysville residents Theo and Pia van de Venne.
Conservation of three adjacent parcels of land, totaling a little more than 74 acres, was secured by the Westmoreland Land Trust, and the parcels soon will be transferred to the Municipality of Murrysville for annexation to Duff Park. The additional parcels will increase the size of Duff Park by almost 50%, to a total of more than 236 acres, and will expand the park to the south and west.
The Westmoreland Land Trust accomplished this by purchasing two properties from private owners, Cynthia Yerick and RDE Land Co., LLC, with grant funds from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. The third property was donated by the van de Vennes, and served as the required match for the DCNR grant. All three parcels of new parkland will benefit area residents and visitors in perpetuity.
The Westmoreland Land Trust is planning to host a public event this fall to officially transfer the new properties to the Municipality of Murrysville.
Meanwhile, the organization has been working to negotiate the purchase of an additional, fourth parcel that would establish a greenway corridor connecting Murrysville’s Duff and Pleasant Valley parks. So far, this negotiation has been unsuccessful, and time to acquire the property is running out, as access to the DCNR grant funds for this purchase will expire at the end of 2014.
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. A “March for Parks” event this past March was held to raise funds for this nearly 10-mile-long trail project. The Westmoreland Land Trust team raised nearly $2,000 of the $33,000 raised for the project, and was 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.
In 2009, the Westmoreland Land Trust also acquired the land that became Murrysville’s Peter and Victoria Skena Nature Reserve, and transferred it to the Municipality of Murrysville for its establishment as a nature-oriented park contiguous with Murrysville’s Lillian Kellman Nature Reserve. The land trust was able to accomplish this acquisition with funding support from DCNR, the Municipality of Murrysville, and Gerald and Audrey McGinnis.
More information about the Westmoreland Land Trust may be found at http://westmoreland-landtrust.org/.