On December 17, the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy’s Toms Run Nature Reserve in Kilbuck Township expanded by 52 acres to a total of 369 acres, thanks to a newly protected property near the reserve. The addition protects a large forested slope above Toms Run, a tributary to the Ohio River, and keeps the forest intact along the road leading from Route 65 to the reserve’s trailhead. The newly conserved area is part of the former Dixmont State Hospital property, which closed in 1984.

Located in western Allegheny County near I-79 and Route 65, Toms Run Nature Reserve has been protected by the Conservancy since 1977 and is open to the public for hiking, nature watching, hunting and birding. The reserve includes large stands of mature maple, oak and American beech trees and is one of the largest remaining undeveloped forested areas in the county. Toms Run, which flows along the preserve’s eastern border, is the largest of several streams on the reserve.

Over the past decade, the Conservancy has made improvements to enhance outdoor recreation options and help restore the forest and streams on the reserve. Those efforts, strengthened by Conservancy members and volunteers, included demolishing dilapidated buildings, capping abandoned oil and gas wells, and limiting the use of ATVs and dirt bikes.

Local residents and Pittsburgh-area school students have increasingly been using the property for recreation and learning in recent years. With donations from individuals and state grants now in hand, the Conservancy will soon provide a new 2.5-mile trail loop, which will contain an ADA-accessible path, and an expanded parking lot to accommodate school buses and additional parking. These improvements, along with the installation of trail and educational signs, are expected to conclude in late 2019.

“Toms Run is a special property for the Conservancy,” said Tom Saunders, president and CEO of the Conservancy. “We are glad to protect this forested landscape and stream in such an otherwise developed area. It’s in a good location for hiking and exploring, and is accessible to so many people in the Pittsburgh region. We are looking forward to the new trails being planned now to open next year.”

Before exploring Toms Run Nature Reserve, visitors are encouraged to first contact the Conservancy for parking and access information due to upcoming trail-construction activities. For additional information about the reserve or volunteer opportunities to help restore it, contact the Conservancy at 412-586-2318 or [email protected].