48 acres added to Audubon Greenway

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More than 100 individuals have contributed toward the purchase of the latest piece of the Sewickley area’s Audubon Greenway.

Steve Quick, chairman of the Allegheny Land Trust board, told project supporters last Thursday at the ribbon cutting for the greenway extension that 111 people gave $81,000 toward the $610,000 purchase price of 48 acres in Sewickley Hills.

The nonprofit land trust has pledged to maintain the hilly wooded tract as undeveloped open space.

“Cordelia May is beaming down on us today,” John Rohe told people gathered for the event near the Sewickley Hills borough building and municipal park. Mr. Rohe is vice president for philanthropy for the Colcom Foundation, one of the major contributors to the land purchase. The late Cordelia Scaife May established the foundation in 1996.

The 48 acres, which adjoin the borough park, extend from Interstate 79 west to Magee Road. On the other side of Magee Road is the land trust’s existing Audubon Greenway properties.

Plans call for land trust properties ultimately to provide a “green” connection between municipal parks in Sewickley Heights and Sewickley Hills.

Other donors toward the project, in addition to the Colcom Foundation, include the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the Peaceable Kingdom Fund of The Pittsburgh Foundation, the Katherine Mabis McKenna Foundation, the Sierra Club and the Laurel Foundation. The seller was the Catholic Institute, the real estate arm of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh.

As undeveloped land, the 48 acres will help reduce flooding risks by holding up to 40 million gallons of annual snow melt and rain runoff, according to the land trust. The protected woodlands also will help to maintain the rural character of the adjoining neighborhoods.

State Sen. Matt Smith, D-Mt. Lebanon, also emphasized the greenway’s environmental and quality-of-life benefits. “It’s hard to believe standing here that we are just 15 to 20 minutes away from a major metropolitan area,” he said. Mr. Smith’s 37th District senate seat includes Sewickley Hills.

State Rep. Mark Mustio, R-Moon, pointed to another advantage gained from the Audubon Greenway. The canopy of trees reduces traffic noise from nearby Interstate 79, he said.

With 2.2 million acres of farms and forests lost to development every year in the United States, Mr. Rohe said that preserving 48 acres might seem like a small contribution. The people who visit the greenway to walk or to watch birds will be reminded of the web connecting all life and the importance of biodiversity, he said. “Natural wisdom is held intact here,” he said.

The conservation of fields and forests in the greenway marks the start of a “regenerative process” for the land, Mr. Quick said.

Since 1993, the Allegheny Land Trust has protected 1,700 acres in 23 municipalities.

Len Barcousky: lbarcousky@post-gazette.com or 724-772-0184.


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