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The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy recently protected nearly 300 acres in Somerset and Fayette counties near the summit of Laurel Ridge and many popular Laurel Highlands outdoor recreational destinations. The land will be transferred to the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Bureau of State Parks as an addition to Laurel Ridge State Park next year.

This scenic land shares its northern border with Laurel Ridge State Park and State Game Lands 111 at its southeastern corner, connecting the region’s public lands and expanding recreation opportunities. The 70.5-mile Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail, Forbes State Forest, and Bear Run Nature Reserve are all within close proximity to this land.

In addition, this 281-acre acquisition protects buffers around Sandy Run, a High Quality coldwater stream that flows into Laurel Hill Creek. Sandy Run supports a range of important aquatic species, including naturally reproducing trout, shellfish, hellbender salamanders, macroinvertebrates, and many other aquatic species.

“This is another wonderful addition to the protection of lands in the Laurel Hill Creek watershed and Pennsylvania’s state parks,” said Tom Saunders, president and CEO of the Conservancy. “This project expands the Conservancy’s historic acquisitions that led to the creation of Laurel Ridge State Park in the late 1960s.”

In 1969, the Conservancy protected and conveyed more than 11,000 acres to become Laurel Ridge State Park. Today, the 13,625-acre state park is home to portions of the popular 70-mile Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail, which the Conservancy helped establish. Acquisition of this land also protects undeveloped land surrounding the hiking trail corridor.

The purchase of this property was made possible through the generosity of the family of B. Kenneth Simon, with additional support from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.