Allegheny Land Trust raising funds to buy, preserve site

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A tract considered by local ecologists to be a top preservation priority is under contract for sale to one of the region's biggest and busiest environmental stewards.

The Allegheny Land Trust, based in Sewickley Hills, announced Friday a fundraising campaign to seal the purchase of 48 acres that are contiguous to the trust's holdings.

The parcel is on Magee Road and is a bridge between Sewickley Hills and Sewickley Heights parklands, said Chris Beichner, trust executive director.

When the sale is complete -- and that's anticipated to be by Sept. 30 -- Mr. Beichner said, there will be a block of 1,200 acres of preserved green space available for passive recreation and environmental benefits such as storm water retention.

"This land was identified in our 2008 'green print' for land conservation in Allegheny County as a top priority. It was something we knew we wanted to preserve for a number of years before that as well,'' Mr. Beichner said.

The land has been appraised at more than $1 million and is owned by the Catholic Institute, which has agreed to sell it for $660,000. Mr. Beichner said the difference between the appraised value and the sale price constitutes part of the matching monies needed for a $500,000 grant from the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

The $160,000 balance must be raised through fundraising. Mr. Beichner said $40,000 already has been pledged, bringing the total needed to $120,000. He said he believes that goal is "very doable" by the proposed closing date. The land has been under contract since April. Anyone interested in contributing is asked to contact trust official Roy Kraynyk at 412-741-2750, ext. 203.

"We're very excited about this project," Mr. Beichner said.

He said the preservation of the property accomplishes several goals. One of the key goals is absorption of some 40 million gallons of water annually.

"If this land were developed, that water would turn into stormwater runoff that could end up in basements downstream," he said.

Additionally, the land is the site of a mature wooded area that is both scenic and home to an array of wildlife.

"There are ecological benefits. There are aesthetic benefits. The property is great for birding and passive recreation like hiking and horseback riding. There are many reasons to preserve this property," Mr. Beichner said.

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Karen Kane: kkane@post-gazette.com or 724-772-9180.


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