search terms in context | full text File Size: 3029 K bytes | Add this to my bookbag

 

Brief Biographical / Historical Sketch

History

The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy (WPC) began as the Greater Pittsburgh Parks Association (GPPA) in 1932. The organization's first projects included transforming a barren stretch of land lying parallel to Bigelow Boulevard into a park (resulting in Frank Curto Park) and expanding Frick Park in Pittsburgh's East End. However, through the Depression and World War II, funding and interest for the Parks Association remained low, and accomplishments were sporadic.

By 1951 the GPPA reestablished itself as the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy and began purchasing large tracts of land from willing individuals and communities. The next two decades were spent merging these properties and forming some of today's most utilized Western Pennsylvania parks. McConnell's Mill represents one of the first of these efforts. From 1945 and culminating in 1974, the WPC set aside the land for McConnell's Mill in Lawrence County, ultimately designating it a Natural Historic Park. In the early 1950s, the WPC began to attain the land that would later comprise the Ferncliff Peninsula. This project would widen in scope throughout the next fifteen years, resulting in the establishment of the Ohiopyle State Park in Fayette County. Between 1959 and 1964, the WPC also created Muddy Creek, the central focus of Moraine State Park. The year 1963 marked a watershed year for the WPC. Much of the land for Raccoon Creek State Park was acquired and Edgar Kaufmann, Jr. entrusted the WPC with the world famous Frank Lloyd Wright home, Fallingwater.

Beyond these accomplishments, the WPC was also instrumental in consolidating the land that would encompass Laurel Ridge and Oil Creek. The WPC worked simultaneously augmenting Cherry Run, McCoy Farm, and Conneaut Marsh, all protected state game lands.

Outside of land acquisitions, transfers, and the maintenance of Fallingwater, the WPC also played a large role in preserving historical sites. The Old Stone House Village, a nineteenth century stopover point for mail carriers, was restored and remains a Butler County attraction. Also, in keeping with the theme of the Greater Pittsburgh Parks Association, the WPC has worked with community organizations in and around Pittsburgh to plant and maintain gardens found along roadways, neighborhoods, and businesses.

Since 1932, the WPC has acquired over 85,000 acres of land, with the stated goal of pushing this total to 110,000 acres by 2010. This land has then been transferred to the state, maintained by the conservancy, or sold to private individuals under the condition that it remains free of commercial development. Today, the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy boasts a small full-time staff and over 9,000 members, all of whom want to conserve the natural and cultural heritage of Western Pennsylvania.