With nine parks encompassing over 12,000 acres, Allegheny County boasts one of the largest regional park systems in the country. While recreational activities make each park a unique destination, nature is the common thread that connects our parks and is our most treasured – and jeopardized – asset. The abundant resources found in our parks’ forests, meadows and streams provide vital habitat for flora and fauna that clean our air and water, pollinate our plants and connect the web of life. We are stewards of these natural sanctuaries and are working to protect them for future generations. 

In 2017, the Allegheny County Parks Foundation together with the Allegheny County Parks, partnered with the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy (WPC) to conduct an Ecological Assessment and Action Plan in Hartwood Acres Park. This study evaluates the park’s natural resources and ecological assets and recommends an implementation plan for protecting, preserving and improving the environmental health of the park. 

Hartwood Acres Park is a unique destination, originally designed as a private residence for a family of equestrians to replicate an English countryside manor. The Tudor-style Hartwood Mansion, a popular regional attraction, with stables, is surrounded by more than nine miles of trails for walking, hiking, cross-country skiing and horseback riding. Hartwood Acres was purchased from the Lawrence family by Allegheny County in 1969 and opened to the public in 1976. 

The grounds offer a diverse ecosystem with a range of mature forests in good condition, forested areas with some ecological damage from invasive species and other areas substantially impacted by invasives. The challenges ahead are to protect the healthy areas against oak wilt, manage the spread of invasive species, and plant trees and shrubs in some open areas to encourage wildlife habitat and discourage additional invasive spreading. 

WPC identified several problem areas in Hartwood Acres Park that would benefit from green infrastructure to manage stormwater. It recommends converting several mowed areas to native meadows to provide a richer wildlife and pollinator habitat. The report suggests installing deer fencing to protect areas from extensive deer over browsing and creating a comprehensive trail development and management plan to protect tender native plants. WPC suggests adding interpretive signage to help educate and recruit the public to cooperate in the conservation of sensitive ecological areas. 

We are deeply grateful to the Benedum Foundation and the Garden Club of Allegheny County for providing the funding to make this report possible. We also thank the outstanding staff at the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy and Allegheny County Parks for their expertise and insightful contributions to this report. We look forward to working with the County Parks staff and other partners to prioritize and implement these recommendations and to continue this important work in all of the Allegheny County Parks.

Download the final report here:

Section I: Introduction, Background and Methods

Section II: Ecological Overview

Section III: Objectives, Issues and Opportunities

Section IV: Recommendations

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