The Allegheny Land Trust is working to permanently protect 40.5 acres of vacant green space off of Library Road in Bethel Park that already is home to several well-kept trails.
The nonprofit is under contract to purchase the land from owner Pittsburgh Terminal Corp. and is working to raise the funds to complete the buy, said Lindsay Dill, marketing communications director for the land trust.
“The site is really, really unique and really special,” Dill said. “This space would definitely be a great sanctuary, not only for Bethel Park residents, but all of the South Hills, looking for hiking, biking … sitting and meditating.”
The Allegheny Land Trust will host a public information meeting about their plans on June 25 at 6:30 p.m. at the Bethel Park municipal building, 5100 W. Library Ave. The meeting will be held in council chambers.
The land, located near where Library Road intersects with Valley Drive and Connor Road, once was used as a dumping ground for tailings from nearby Mollenaur Mine #3’s coal mining operation, which ran from the late 1800s to 1939, Dill said.
“Since then, it’s just been a vacant parcel,” she said. “It’s really surprising because nature has really reclaimed what was once just piles of waste.”
The land conservation organization’s goal is to permanently protect, maintain and improve green spaces across Allegheny County, with the hope that it improves the quality of life for people across the region.
It discovered the site when a staff member drove by and saw a “For Sale” sign, Dill said.
While vacant, the property already has trails running through it.
“These trails are so well kept by the community,” Dill said. “There’s clearly a great amount of care put into them.”
Keeping the site in its natural green habitat would have many benefits for the area beyond providing trails and outdoor space to enjoy, which already contributes to increased property values, Dill said.
“It is at the headwaters of the Saw Mill Run Watershed, which is a very flood prone watershed,” Dill said.
The site sequesters and filters 2.2 million gallons of rainwater each year.
“To develop a space like that in an already flood-prone watershed would result in more flooding days, more road closures, potentially more landslides,” she said.
The land trust’s plan is to maintain the land and trails, while tackling invasive species management and working to make the site more sustainable, Dill said.
It also would host historic hikes, wildflower and bird identification walks on the property, she said.
The Allegheny Land Trust needs to raise more than $800,000 “to cover costs associated with completing this acquisition,” Dill said.
The nonprofit is “actively pursuing a funding plan that includes requests for support from the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the PA Department of Community and Economic Development,” with grant requests pending. The funding plan also includes commitments from the municipality and private foundations, along with a local fundraising campaign with a goal to raise $25,000.
The trust is working on distributing a community mailer that will go to homes near the property, Dill said.
Bethel Park leaders have been supportive of the project, Dill said.
“We recognize that green space like this is a true asset in so many ways, as we’re really excited to work with the land trust to protect it forever for current and future residents and the greater benefit of the community,” Bethel Park council president Tim Moury said in a statement from ALT.