The Hollow Oak Land Trust is developing a new model for land conservation that builds on Pittsburgh’s strengths, both geographic and cultural.
In recent years, the region has reawakened to its wealth of natural amenities, embracing our parks and waterways and placing greater value on greenspace. Rails-to-trails and riverfront trails now serve as Pittsburgh’s showcase “front yard” and provide a direct connection to the nations capital. Participation in outdoor recreation is at an all-time high and community demands for new trails have become a perennial top priority.
Hollow Oak Land Trust has teamed up with municipalities such as Moon and Robinson Township, Coraopolis, and the Avonworth Municipal Authority to develop networks of greenways connecting municipal parks, conservation areas and trails. Greenways serve a dual purpose as both wildlife corridors and trail connectors among greenspace destinations. Hollow Oak would like to replicate this approach with other municipalities throughout the airport corridor.
The Montour Woods Greenway
Working with Moon Township and local landowners, Hollow Oak seeks to establish a 10-mile trail loop linking three local natural amenities: Moon Township Park, 46-mile Montour Trail, and Hollow Oak Land Trust’s 300-acre Montour Woods Conservation Area. The loop will lead from Moon Park down the wooded stream valley of Meeks Run (below Hassam Road) to the Montour Trail, then continue up the Montour Trail about three miles to Trout Run and follow that wooded stream valley (below Hookstown Grade Road) up to the public Moon Golf Club, where it will reconnect to Moon Park via property owned by Pittsburgh International Airport. At one end of this trail loop, Hollow Oak has established The Trout Run Conservation Area as a nature-based destination.
Not only will Hollow Oak’s project bring access to nature closer to where people live and work, it will improve air and water quality, protect wildlife habitat, and also boost the local economy. Based on a 2010 study by Carnegie Mellon University and the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh, this greenway project can increase property values within 2,000 feet by as much as $40,000 and save municipalities tens of thousands of dollars in stormwater treatment. And while land conservation is paid for once, the cost of land development never ends. Trees and native plants absorb rainwater and reproduce naturally, rather than requiring expensive infrastructure maintenance. It’s nice to let Mother Nature mop up after her own storms!
In the suburban environment, family schedules are tight with precious little free time for unstructured recreation. Busy schedules and an overabundance of electronic entertainment are disconnecting children from the outdoors. This new reality of passive screen-watching has cut kids off from interaction with nature, interaction which is vital to healthy childhood development. “Nature Deficit Disorder” describes this phenomenon in Richard Louv’s groundbreaking book, Last Child in the Woods.
Having local nature reserves with trails for hiking and biking is a luxury that, thanks to organizations such as the Hollow Oak Land Trust, is free to everyone. Greenways provide great opportunities close to home for exercise, refreshment and relaxation in nature. They also boost the benefits of existing parks by effectively growing them through connections to other amenities. The public-private partnership of Moon Township and Hollow Oak Land Trust provides a best-of-breed approach to preserving greenspace, minimizing municipal expense and stimulating economic development. Hollow Oak currently protects land in six townships and invites collaboration with additional municipalities to establish more conservation areas and greenways throughout the rapidly developing Airport corridor.