Allegheny Land Trust leads effort to protect Montour Trail

Saturday, March 16, 2019 | 6:00 AM


Through its Montour Greenway Expansion project, Allegheny Land Trust is currently raising funds to purchase 38.5 acres of trailside green space in Moon Township. The organization has partnered with Hollow Oak Land Trust and Montour Trail Council for the acquisition effort.

The Montour Trail extends for nearly 47 miles, from Moon Township to Clairton. About 400,000 people use its crushed limestone surface each year for hiking, jogging and biking, according to the Montour Trail Council.

Users want the trail to “remain green,” said Lindsay Dill of the Sewickley-based Allegheny Land Trust.

Most of the heavily-wooded land area is located between the Montour Road trailhead and mile marker 1. It stretches from the trail up a hillside toward Our Lady of Sacred Heart (OLSH) high school. The property also encompasses a portion of Montour Run stream, according to a map published by Allegheny Land Trust.

“Once we were kind of looking at it we thought, ‘this has a high chance of development, we can see this (land) reasonably being developed, and areas like it have been developed,’” Dill said.

Allegheny Land Trust plans to finish raising the $180,000 necessary to acquire the property by the end of March. Haudenshield Realty currently owns the land, according to Dill. The organization could not be reached for comment.

Allegheny Land Trust has already received commitments of $70,000 from local foundations, the organization’s website said.

Community members and trail users have contributed nearly $17,000, and the Land Trust is applying for a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR). Hollow Oak Land Trust and Montour Trail Council are helping to collect donations and have contributed $1,700 and $5,000, respectively, Dill said.

Sean Brady, executive director of Hollow Oak Land Trust, said his organization has promoted the project to its donor base and is working with surrounding communities that might be able to use the land.

Although Hollow Oak and Allegheny Land Trust both focus on protecting green space in western Allegheny County, he said it is uncommon for two land trusts to work together on the same tract.

“This is a great example of where shared interest and shared goals to protect green space and improve the community create a collaboration,” Brady said.

The Montour Greenway Expansion project ties into Hollow Oak’s focus on sustainable trail development. Brady noted that Hollow Oak has talked with representatives from OLSH about building a “capillary trail” from the school’s property, down to the Montour Trail.

Student athletes, particularly the cross country and tracks teams, would “have access to the Montour Trail like they never had before,” Brady said.

The property has also become part of Hollow Oak’s greenways plan for Coraopolis and the surrounding area. Under the plan, Hollow Oak intends to identify a trail corridor that would connect Cornell High School, OLSH and the Montour Trail. The effort, Brady said, would require additional land conservation in the McCabe Run stream valley.

Although fundraising to acquire the 38.5 acres along Montour Trail will likely end in April, community members can support stewardship of the land for the foreseeable future, Dill said. Allegheny Land Trust puts together a management plan for each of its conservation areas. These plans include removal of invasive species, water quality monitoring and tree plantings.

“The location of this land project couldn’t be better to connect an entire high school to the Montour Trail,” Brady said. “It’s also great because it’s going to protect habitat, wildlife habitat, right along the stream at Montour Run.”

To learn more, visit https://alleghenylandtrust.org/new-land-project- montour-greenway- expansion/.