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Land trust boosting property Sewickley Valley acquisitions

| Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016, 6:24 p.m.

Two parcels in Franklin Park, if left alone, would be gaps on a land preservation map.

But if they're acquired and put under protection, those 13 acres in Linbrook Woodlands would join an additional 100 acres overseen by the Allegheny Land Trust, leaders said.

The Sewickley-based land preservation nonprofit organization acquired 200 acres in Bell Acres and Franklin Park in February, and is looking to secure four more parcels in those municipalities.

The main reason for the moves, according to Roy Kraynyk, the trust's vice president of land protection, is water.

“We're working to acquire 13 acres next to Linbrook Park, then 35- and 50-acre parcels in the general area... most of which is along Big Sewickley Creek and its watershed. So protecting these areas is filling in the gaps missed in the initial acquisitions and providing best protection for the region's water quality while maintaining access for fishing and other recreation,” Kraynyk said.

The fundraising push to buy $720,000 worth of land has been aided in part by the Colcom Foundation, with a gift of $80,000, and the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, which is giving $100,000. The Pittsburgh Foundation jumped in with a gift of $30,000 to aid in the nonprofit's mission of protecting water and natural resources, according to foundation spokesman Doug Root.

“These areas have been identified as integral to the biological diversity and strength of Allegheny County. And land conservation is the most effective way to protect water quality,” Root said.

Now the fundraising campaign is looking to close the financial gaps. Individual donors have given nearly $9,000 for the 35-acre Campmeeting Woods area, Root said.

And the land trust is sending out individual letters to residents in Franklin Park, asking that they help reach a match goal of $25,000. Bell Acres residents are being asked to raise $21,000, Kraynyk said.

“There are Blue Herons and more than a hundred species of birds documented by the Audubon Society as having a concentrated presence in this area, as migratory birds tend to use the streams as flyways, and they'll nest and forage upstream in the tributaries,” Kraynyk said. “...Though the primary goal is conservation for its own sake, it has the effect of boosting property values and keeping the rural character of these neighborhoods so everyone can enjoy nature.”

Kraynyk said community response to the February drive was overwhelming, so the organization is hoping for similar enthusiasm from donors to protect more land. If all parcels are acquired, the land trust would oversee 450 acres in the area and more than 2,000 acres across Allegheny and Washington counties.

David Singer is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

Editor's note: Allegheny Land Trust's Franklin Park project referenced in an Oct. 20 story online and in print is known as Linbrook Woodlands. The name was misspelled in that story.

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