A 450-acre parcel of land in McKeesport that was once an industrial site has been nursed back to health to the point that it has been recognized as a Pennsylvania wild plant sanctuary.
“That’s most of our work,” land trust spokeswoman Lindsay Dill said. “So the site itself, like the ruins, we’ve mostly left alone. It’s mostly habitat restoration work.”
In the late 19th Century, the land was quarried and in the early 20th Century it was the site of a pipe factory.
The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources created the program to slow the loss of habitat for native plants and foster good stewardship of private lands. The designation comes with support from the state in identifying best practices to conserve the land.
“Part of our management plan is redirecting trails in a way that creates protection for the ecologically sensitive areas,” Dill said.
Some of the existing trails were moved to avoid sensitive areas while still providing views of native flowers such as blue bells, trilliums and Dutchman’s Breeches.
Dill said those native plants returned naturally after non-native invasive species including Japanese knotweed and garlic mustard were removed by volunteers.
Several species can be seen blooming in May along the portion of the site bordered by the Great Allegheny Passage trail, according to Dill.
"By bringing information on plant species of special concern … we're helping to sustain our biodiversity,” Chris Firestone, DCNR Wild Plant Program Manager said in a press release.
There are currently 6 miles of trails on the land and Dill said the trust is working to add 4 more miles.