After more than two years of advocacy and fundraising, local land conservation non-profit Allegheny Land Trust (ALT) has acquired the land of the former Churchill Valley Country Club, thus permanently conserving the 151-acre site as the Churchill Valley Greenway for the benefit of Penn Hills, Churchill and surrounding communities.
“We are very excited to permanently conserve this unique green space,” said ALT President and CEO Chris Beichner. “This land will be easily accessible for everyone to enjoy – especially the thousands of residents who live within walking distance. We are humbled and honored that so many residents, companies, elected officials, foundations and others supported our efforts to conserve this beautiful local green space. It is a special place for its many environmental, health and community benefits.”
With 111 acres in Churchill and 40 acres in Penn Hills, the permanent protection of the Churchill Valley Greenway will preserve natural scenic beauty, provide a place for close-to-home outdoor recreation and environmental education, mitigate downstream flooding, prevent further traffic congestion and enhance the attractiveness of the municipalities of Churchill and Penn Hills to prospective homeowners – who increasingly cite the proximity to green space as a significant factor in their selection of a community to call home.
“The protection of the Churchill Valley Greenway will add to the quality of life in Penn Hills, Churchill and surrounding communities today and for future generations,” said PA State Senator Jay Costa of the 43rd District. “The community support and the public-private collaboration to make it happen have been really energizing. The soon-to-be greenway has already become a community recreational resource, and I’m pleased that we were able to provide strong support at the state level” added Senator Costa.
ALT worked over a two-year period to raise the $3 million purchase price with local support from the more than 800 individuals in the community who donated more than $273,000, and support from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation & Natural Resources, the Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development, Allegheny County Redevelopment Authority, Pittsburgh Foundation, Colcom Foundation, S. Kent Rockwell Foundation, Duquesne Light Company, Mark A. MacKay Memorial, Bradley L. Henninger Memorial, K.C. Henninger Sokol Foundation, Sierra Club, and LANXESS Corporation.
Additionally, the timing of the June closing date was facilitated by a short-term loan from the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy through a Colcom Foundation Revolving Fund for local land trusts to provide liquidity until the proceeds of all the above-mentioned grants are received.
Now that ownership of the land is secured, ALT has turned its focus toward responsible stewardship of the land for both the short and long term. In the months following closing, the community can expect to see basic enhancements to the property to improve safety, accessibility and aesthetics – projects may include trail improvements, stream crossing reinforcements, temporary parking lot improvements, signage installation, inspection of and planning for future repair of the Beulah Road bridges.
Concurrently, ALT will begin comprehensive management planning for the site, reaching out to municipal leaders and community stakeholders for input. ALT has already begun pursuing funding for site improvement, longer-term planning efforts and major stewardship projects.