New sign caps recent improvements at North Huntingdon nature preserve

December 13, 2019 Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
PEC in the News

Volunteers from Jeannette’s Elliott Group lent a hand this week as the Westmoreland Land Trust installed an updated sign at the entrance of its nature preserve along Ardara Road in North Huntingdon.

The sign joins other recent improvements at the 59-acre Otto and Magdalene Ackermann Nature Preserve that were the result of volunteer labor and a $4,230 Laurel Highlands Conservation Landscape initiative mini-grant, administered by the Pennsylvania Environmental Council.

A 17-member volunteer team from the Elliott Group worked at the preserve for more than six hours during the Sept. 13 United Way Day of Caring. The group helped to install a new information kiosk, remove downed trees that had fallen on a trail, place trail signs and clear away some old car parts, for disposal at the Valley Landfill.

The volunteers also widened Quarry Trail, cleared brush from a scenic viewpoint along Pipeline Trail and cut away unwanted Japanese stilt grass.

Volunteers from RAI Trade Marketing Services, Columbia Gas, W.N. Tuscano Agency and First National Bank have helped with tasks at the preserve on other occasions.

“The work all these folks have done has been very significant,” Land Trust Executive Director Betsy Aiken said. “They’ve been a tremendous help to us as a nonprofit entity.”

The trust, meanwhile, is working on a new map and brochure of the North Huntingdon preserve — supported by the mini-grant.

The land was donated to the nonprofit in 2009 by descendants of the Ackermanns, German immigrants who purchased the property in 1937. Otto Ackermann, who collected and studied butterflies, and his wife, Magdalene, visited the property for hikes, picnicking, bird-watching and other nature studies.

The family opened their preserve for public use before deeding it to the Land Trust to ensure its continued preservation, Aiken said.

Among the preserve’s features is a scenic stone quarry dating from the the mid-19th century and two waterfalls.

“The quality of the forest is very good,” Aiken said. “There is good biodiversity, with healthy trees and some old-growth trees and relatively few invasive plants.”

A tributary to Brush Run Creek runs through the property and has been provisionally named Blue Dell Run, after a swimming pool that was once popularin the area. “The artesian well that is the head water of that stream also provided the water for the old Blue Dell pool,” Aiken said.

Visit for more information about the nonprofit’s properties and projects.

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