Girty’s Woods Conservation Project | Grassroots Grant to Regional Environmental Sustainability Project

Feb 11, 2021

Look up from almost any point in Millvale Borough and you can see a wooded hillside to the north–a 155 acre swath of urban forest and woodland that is mitigating the stormwater problems in Girty’s Run as well as cleaning the air and providing recreation space for Millvale residents. This rare urban forest, located just north of Millvale and Reserve Township is Girty’s Woods, and local residents have been working to preserve it as natural greenspace since 2016.

Kirk Jalbert shows off the trail map he created with Girty’s Woods in the background.

Almost 5 years ago, former Millvale resident Marisa Manheim received a $2,500 Love My Neighbor! Grant from Neighborhood Allies to convene local residents and stakeholders around publicly recognizing and taking the necessary steps to protect this community asset. With the LMN grant, Marisa and her neighbor and fellow Millvale resident, Kirk Jalbert, would also create a map for what a future park and trail system could look like and an accompanying pamphlet that had drawings of local plants and animals that inhabit Girty’s Woods. 

Through our Love My Neighbor! Program, we aim to support and nurture resident-led projects that bring ingenuity, talent, creativity, and hope to our communities while encouraging deep community engagement with neighbors. Marisa and Kirk’s initial LMN project that launched the Save Girty’s Woods movement did just that. It highlighted the inherent value of the land while building upon its unique ability to serve as a recreation space for the community to gather, a classroom for local students to learn hands-on environmental information, and a naturally occurring guard against flooding in the community. Additionally, it provided their neighbors the opportunity to rally around a shared goal in preserving and imagining a myriad ways to use a fantastic community asset.  

“We have a unique opportunity to create a local amenity that will benefit the environment and the citizens of Millvale and Reserve even more.”

-Marisa Manheim

Over the past 5 years, much progress has been made. Today, there are more than three miles of community-forged trails that neighbors and visitors alike use for passive recreation, the local wildlife habitat is being protected and natural scenic beauty and woodland in an urban core is being preserved. Additionally, this land is naturally absorbing 127 million gallons of rainwater per year, in an area prone to flooding, naturally mitigating pollution and increasing surrounding property values and tax revenue. Allegheny Land Trust, a regional nonprofit that helps local people save local land, has stepped in to guide and assist these grassroots residents in protecting and managing this land as a public park. Proposed plans include working with a landscape architect to create a master plan for the park that would include hiking, mountain bike and dirt bike trails, accommodations for parking and access and partnering with the Millvale Community Library and the Millvale Community Development Corporation to organize educational hikes to generate additional support for the park. These hikes will also be used to document the greenspace and GPS locate sites, which will later be incorporated into the master plan. 

Today, we’re very happy to report that the owners of the key 155 acre parcels of land and the Allegheny Land Trust have signed an agreement to sell the property and to save the forest for long term conversation, recreation, and environmental benefit for Millvale  residents and residents throughout the region! But, we need some help reaching the finish line and realizing our fundraising goals…

Thus far, the initiative has raised over $670,000 with the help of grants, contributions from community organizations, and individual donations. But $33,577 is still needed to officially purchase the land and save Girty’s Woods. That’s where you come in. Will you help us?

You can donate to the campaign here and spread the word by sharing this event on your social media platforms.

More information on Girty’s Woods and this preservation project can be found here

Feeling outdoorsy? Hit the Girty’s Woods trails and share a pic enjoying the space with #SaveGirtysWoods and don’t forget to join and tag the Save Girty’s Woods facebook page!


Top Header Image Photo Credit: Prototyping Larimer Stories by artist John Peña, photo by OPA