Murrysville's Duff Park named a wild plant sanctuary

Designation honors value of native plants

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A well-known park in Murrysville gained further acclaim last week.

Michael DiRinaldo, a forester from the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, was on hand at the municipal council meeting to designate Duff Park as a Wild Plant Sanctuary.

Also attending the ceremony before the council meeting were John and Betty Robison of Scenery Hill, Washington County. Their 33-acre tract, known as Robison Acres, also was designated a Wild Plant Sanctuary.

The Murrysville and Washington County entities are two of only four Wild Plant sanctuaries in the state. The others are in northeastern Pennsylvania.

"When it comes to conservation, it's important to have good role models," said John Quigley, secretary of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. "We are pleased to recognize these landowners for their work in protecting our diversity of plants and happy to point to them as examples for others to follow."

The Wild Plant Sanctuary Program was created through the Wild Resource Conservation Act of 1982 to establish a voluntary statewide network of native plant sanctuaries. Landowners agree to protect the area and educate others about the importance of native and wild plants and habitats. In return, they receive assistance with a management plan, if needed.

Mr. DiRinaldo praised the Friends of Murrysville Parks and the Robisons for their work in keeping the areas pristine.

The forester added that the oldest patch of timber in Westmoreland County is in Duff Park, which occupies a forested hillside above Turtle Creek. It supports more than 60 species of wildflowers and rare old growth woodlands that attract nature lovers from around the region.

"A lot of these trees go back to the 1780s," Mr. DiRinaldo said. "It is very unique in that it was never cleared or developed for anything else. What you see is what it was."

Dr. Kyle Selcer, director of the Pre-Medical Professions program at Duquesne University, said he has visited the park with his family on many occasions. He describes it as a serene and beautiful location.

"It has some access, but not too much access," Dr. Selcer said. "And that is the wonderful thing about this place."

Murrysville Mayor Bob Brooks expressed his pleasure with the designation.

"It really makes us proud as a community to have this treasure and a wealth of volunteers who help maintain it," he said.

David Whipkey, freelance writer: .


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