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Buffalo Township seeks natural gas proposals

| Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, 12:26 a.m.
Jason Bridge | Valley News Dispatch
Thermo-Twin Windows installer Ray Meyers leans out of a window in near zero degree temperatures as he removes a window casing at a home along Fernledge Drive in New Kensington on Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014.

Buffalo Township plans to seek proposals from gas companies interested in leasing natural gas rights under the Butler-Freeport Community Trail and other parcels.

Tracts available for lease along the 22-mile trail were broken up by trail head so that companies could lease what is ideal for their current operations, said Supervisor John Haven.

The other parcels include the former Oregon Camp site at Norris Lane and Monroe Road and a 10-acre site just off the trail in the Herman section of Summit Township.

Haven stressed that only the subsurface rights would be leased for either gas extraction or to bore for pipe installation.

Township officials have occasionally discussed the option since a drilling company approached them with a proposal about two years ago, Haven said.

“We decided to keep it in our back pocket,” Haven said. “Now we need the revenue.”

Township officials are hopeful they'll have some proposals in hand for review at the Feb. 12 meeting.

In a related matter, the township set a May deadline for deciding how it'll use the former Oregon Camp property.

For about a year, officials have been discussing a partnership with the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania, which wants to build a nature center and other amenities on a portion of the 5-acre parcel.

Now that the land officially belongs to Buffalo Township, which had been leasing the property, it's time to determine how to proceed, Haven said.

The state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources gave the township a one-year extension to use a $90,000 grant to make improvements.

“But we don't have a year to make a decision,” Haven said. “I'd like to have something concrete approved so we can move forward with the grant and have everything buttoned up.”

Supervisors have been mulling over five options that the Audubon Society presented in September about how the land could be used. It's also considering the extent of a partnership between the township and nonprofit.

The options range from the Audubon Society independently buying 2.5 acres for its nature center, to it buying the minimal amount of land necessary, to entering into a long-term agreement with the township to manage the entire property, including a nature center and a public picnic area.

“We don't have to go with any of these,” Haven said, “this is just a place for us to start.”

But the majority of supervisors said they favor the Audubon Society being involved in some way.

“They have a lot of resources,” said Supervisor Ron Zampogna. “We're always strapped.”

Supervisors said they want to maintain control over a portion of the property that includes an existing building, which they intented to renovate for public use, including adding running water and handicapped accessible restrooms.

“The shared assets would go well together, and we could really make a nice facility,” Haven said.

Several said they favor putting in a pavilion and a recreational area like a volleyball court so residents could rent the area for picnics.

The supervisors intend to meet with Jim Bonner, executive director of the Audubon Society to further discuss the matter.

Jodi Weigand is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4702 or jweigand@tribweb.com.

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