Allegheny Land Trust has been awarded two grants from the Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development (DCED) totaling $365,000, which will provide the remaining funds needed to permanently protect the Churchill Valley Greenway in Churchill and Penn Hills.
The grants from the Multimodal Transportation Fund ($250,000) and Greenways, Trails and Recreation Program ($115,000) cap a two-year community campaign to raise the money needed to cover the acquisition price. The campaign received significant support from the local community, civic organizations, foundations, and corporate sponsors in addition to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
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 (43rd District). The community support and the public-private collaboration to make it happen has been really energizing. The soon-to-be greenway has already become a community recreational resource, and pleased that we were able to provide strong support at the state level.
More than 800 individuals from the community have donated over $270,000 to the greenway project. Additional financial support came from three families who made generous memorial donations in honor of deceased loved ones. Other major contributors include PA Department of Conservation & Natural Resources, The Pittsburgh Foundation, Redevelopment Authority of Allegheny County, Colcom Foundation, Duquesne Light Company, S. Kent Rockwell Foundation, Sierra Club and LANXESS Corporation.
In addition to Senator Costa, the greenway project has been aided by the support of other elected officials including State Representative Summer Lee, the Churchill Borough Council, and three members of the Penn Hills council.
The land and the trails on the site of the defunct Churchill Valley Country Club are already being enjoyed informally by residents of all ages, interests and abilities for walking, biking, bird watching and other outdoor pursuits. The current pandemic has only underscored the need for its protection as the parking lot is rarely empty on any day or time.
The new greenway, like other green spaces and trails, has experienced a dramatic increase in visitors in recent months as people flock in record numbers to exercise, find solace in nature or simply to get some fresh air while practicing safe social distancing.
Located in a Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection-designated “Environmental Justice Area,” the greenway will provide equitable, convenient and permanent access to the restorative benefits of nature to the 95,000 people who live within a 3-mile radius and to all residents of Southwestern Pennsylvania.
“Together with the community, we’ve worked hard for two years to raise awareness of and support for this special land,” said Allegheny Land Trust (ALT) President & CEO Chris Beichner. Many neighbors shared stories of their connection with the land. Many had memories of the country club itself, and many others have built a connection with the land since the country club closed and its trails became a green sanctuary. Their support through the project was crucial and means that many more people will be able to create memories at this green space.
With 108 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 Churchill and Penn Hills to prospective homeowners – who increasingly cite the proximity to open space as a significant factor in their selection of a community to call home.
The proposed closing date is early June 2021. Once the land is permanently protected, ALT will begin fulfilling national land trust accreditation requirements for the site and devise a plan for addressing stewardship needs on the land.
“Residents have informally enjoyed this green space for years,” Beichner said. “We’re thrilled to be one step closer to forever protecting the Churchill Valley Greenway for residents today and for generations to come.”