About two dozen people turned out New Year’s afternoon to walk some of the woodland paths through Kilbuck’s Vinegar Hollow.
The 46-acre site is the latest green space acquired by the Hollow Oak Land Trust.
The tract is mostly in Kilbuck and separates Emsworth from Ben Avon. The land was purchased on Friday, Dec. 30, from Lou Gilberti, its longtime owner, following lengthy negotiations. It became the ninth parcel owned outright or on which the trust holds conservation easements. The land trust’s mission is to acquire, preserve and link green spaces in Allegheny and adjoining counties.
“How many of you walked here from your homes?” Hollow Oak Executive Director Sean Brady asked the walkers before Sunday’s hike began. Hollow Oak’s acquisition of the Vinegar Hollow land means that it will remain open space, he explained. “Now you will always be able to walk to and through these woods.”
Last week’s sale of the tract was the culmination of almost a decade of planning, organizing and fundraising. “This event happened because people in nearby communities saw the importance” of preserving green space, Brady said.
The land was purchased with major support from Allegheny County and the Colcom Foundation. The $329,000 in federal funds came via the county’s Trail Development Fund, while the Colcom Foundation provided another $200,000. The Avon Club provided money for a planning grant.
Joe Angelelli, who lives in Kilbuck, coordinated residents’ effort as convener of the Avonworth Green Space Committee.
Preservation of the woodland is expected to benefit the nearby communities of Ohio Township, Ben Avon Heights, Avalon and Bellevue in addition to Kilbuck, Emsworth and Ben Avon.
The main access to the tract’s more than 2 miles of trails is at the Ben Avon and Emsworth border where Center and Church avenues meet.
The mostly tree-covered tract is home to a variety of wildlife, including deer, foxes, coyotes, hawks, ravens and several species of owls.
While the land had been privately owned until last week’s sale, it had been a popular destination for decades with hikers, dog walkers and even mountain bikers willing to risk riding on its steep slopes.
Development plans call for Hollow Oak to work with community members and volunteers to improve and add new trails.
Hollow Oak’s Stewardship Fund is accepting donations for improvements and management of Vinegar Hollow. More information is available the organization’s website: https://hollowoak.org/.
Len Barcousky is the author of a trilogy of books about Pittsburgh history who had worked for almost 30 years for the Post-Gazette as a reporter and editor until he retired in 2015.