With nine parks encompassing over 12,000 acres, Allegheny County boasts one of the largest regional park systems in the country. While a wide variety of 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 Allegheny County Parks, partnered with the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy (WPC) to conduct an Ecological Assessment and Action Plan in Settlers Cabin 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.

Settlers Cabin Park’s ecosystem is highly influenced by the presence of high-pH soils that originated from calcareous bedrock. The northern end of Pinkertons Run stream has intact, mature forest and a floodplain community characterized by an abundance of exceptional wildflowers, making this area the ecological jewel of the park. However, there are impacts to Pinkertons Run from acid mine drainage (AMD), and plans are already underway to address this problem. AMD is the residue from years of active mining before the land was acquired by Allegheny County in 1971 for a public park.

Settlers Cabin Park contains several populations of plant species that are rare in Pennsylvania and Allegheny County, and conservation should be a management goal. This report cites a wide variety of species that are thriving in the park’s highly favorable soil, including natives such as James’ sedge and ramps and recommends preserving them. 

WPC suggests converting several mowed areas to native meadows and new forests, a measure that will provide for a richer wildlife and pollinator habitat. It also noted the value in restoring forests degraded by pests such as the emerald ash borer and the disease oak wilt, and also cited the presence of invasive species needing removal. Strategies to reduce stormwater runoff were also suggested. WPC recommended adding interpretive signage to help educate the public about protecting the park’s features and developing a sustainable trail plan.

We are deeply grateful to the Benedum Foundation for providing the funding to make this report possible. We also thank the outstanding staff at the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy and the Allegheny County Parks Department 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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