Land donation leads hikers to new trail in Marshall Township

| Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013, 9:02 p.m.

A new trail is ready for hikers and walkers in Marshall Township, part of a donation of 88 acres of property to the Allegheny Land Trust.

The trail is accessible through two trailheads — at Ridge Road or Penticon Lane, located off of Mt. Pleasant Road. The property also is the site of a section of the historic Venango Trail used by Native Americans that once connected the local area to Presque Isle.

“I think it's really a gem to Marshall Township,” said Roy Kraynyk, director of land protection for the Allegheny Land Trust.

The nonprofit group based in Sewickley maintains and preserves land in and around Allegheny County.

The property, valued at about $1 million, is a forested valley located between Ridge Road and the new Penticon Lane and is adjacent to the Pennsylvania Turnpike, said to Robin Randall, spokeswoman for VT Partners LP., which donated the land in December.

“It's really a high-quality and highly valuable forest … important naturally for ecological benefits but also for the community and the region,” Randall said.

The property has many features worth protecting, including significant biodiversity in vegetation and its effect on water quality in the region, Kraynyk said. The headwaters of the Brush Creek watershed is located on the property, which, Kraynyk said, is important to maintain.

He said the beauty alone makes the land worth preserving. It features large trees, and it would take three people to be able to wrap their arms around one of the trunks.

“The scenic quality when you are on the property is very pretty, (as well as) when you are driving by,” Kraynyk said.

The site will act as a natural noise buffer for traffic along the Pennsylvania Turnpike, he said.

Though it sits within Venango Trails, a nearly $100-million, 473-home community under development, it will be accessible to the public, Randall said.

Randall said the developers with VT Partners, based in Cranberry, were committed years ago to preserve the land, but the donation process took about five years.

The Venango Trails development is 325 acres of the former Venango Trails golf course and will have homes in a price range of about $220,000 to more than $2 million, Randall said. It will front both Freeport and Mt. Pleasant roads and sit adjacent to Interstate 79, the turnpike and Route 19, Randall said.

The plan will offer a community center, a lake and pond, trails, tree-lined streets and green space, she said. The first phase is one-third completed. New homeowners will be able to move in by spring, she said.

While she said it's too early to determine when entire development will be completed, the second phase could begin in February or March.

Natalie Beneviat is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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