Laurel Highlands Initative Newsletter June 2011

This is a copy of the Laurel Highlands Conservation Landscape Initiative Newsletter. We are not the authors of this information.

In This Issue
Scenic Byways grant approved
Mini-grants get big response
Whitewater valve dedicated
WPC completes easements
About the CLI

The Laurel Highlands Conservation Landscape Initiative (CLI) is a partnership that strives to raise the region’s quality of life while crafting a model of sustainable development tied to the natural and cultural assets of the region. The initiative connects communities and partners in the area with state agencies and funding partners to conserve and protect the high quality assets and enhance the region’s economic viability.

The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation & Natural Resources has created seven CLIs. Pennsylvania Environmental Council is proud to serve as lead external partner to the Laurel Highlands CLI.

Laurel Highlands CLI
Laurel Highlands e-blast update Vol. 3 No. 4

Scenic Byways grant approved
A $4 million grant from the Federal Highway Administration’s National Scenic Byways program has been awarded for the Laurel Highlands Falls Area Visitors Center in Ohiopyle State Park. The state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources will build the new visitor center at a total cost of $6.8 million, including exhibits.

Ohiopyle Falls Race.

“This is a key project of the regional Conservation Landscape Initiative, a strategy for natural resource stewardship and community revitalization,” DCNR acting Secretary Richard Allan said. “The new welcome center at Ohiopyle State Park will teach people about the region’s natural, historic and recreation assets and point them to nationally significant trails, challenging whitewater, fishing and other outdoor pursuits.”

Ohiopyle State Park, located along the Laurel Highlands Scenic Byway and near the Historic National Road, is the region’s portal with more than 1.5 million visitors annually.

Mini-grants get big response
Trails, phone apps, signage…. Lots of good projects are under review for the Laurel Highlands Mini-Grant Program.

Despite very short notice, 47 organizations submitted letters of intent to apply for the grants program managed by the National Road and Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridors. Letters were sent to 23 of the organizations inviting them to submit full applications. Notices of award will be sent out in mid-June.

DCNR has provided $100,000 for mini-grants of up to $15,000 to support efforts to revitalize communities by connecting them to outdoor recreation, natural resources, heritage or cultural resources, and agriculture.

Stonycreek whitewater valve dedicated
The Laurel Highlands now has two rivers with scheduled releases of dam water to support whitewater boating. Over 100 people attended the dedication of the whitewater release valve installed in Quemahoning Dam with grants from DCNR and the Mellon and Colcom Foundations.

Playboaters on Stonycreek.
DCNR Deputy Secretary Cindy Dunn spoke at the event, which attracted live coverage from WJAC-TV and widespread newspaper coverage, including coverage in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette ( The Cambria Somerset Authority, established to support economic development from the water system previously owned by Bethlehem Steel Corp., was lauded for recognizing the value of outdoor recreation from dollars spent by visitors and making the region more attractive for general job development.

The dedication kicked off the annual Stonycreek Rendezvous, which attracts about 1,000 people.

WPC competes 3 easements
Three properties near Ligonier are permanently protected through conservation easements completed in May by the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.

The privately-owned, 58-acre Ligonier Camp and Conference Center includes 2,000 feet of frontage on Loyalhanna Creek and is easily viewed from Route 30. A 48-acre farm owned by sisters Julie and Ann Donovan includes a house, barns and outbuildings, and shares about a mile of Loyalhanna Creek with the Center property.

The 139-acre Kevin and Debra McVicker farm has highly visible, picturesque hills surrounding a section of Hanna’s Run, a tributary to Loyalhanna Creek.

For more information:

Construction started May 31 on the new Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail bridge over the Pennsylvania Turnpike near Somerset. The $1.3 million contract was awarded to Pittsburgh-based Mosites Construction Co. Work on the 10-foot-wide, 184-foot-long span is scheduled to be complete in early December.

A 600-seat outdoor pavilion and stage will be built this year at the 3.5-acre Festival Park in Johnstown, where the annual AmeriServ Flood City Music Festival is held (see events below). Peoples Natural Gas Co. donated $500,000 to complete the funding for the $4 million project, which includes a $2 million state Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program grant and $100,000 from the Katherine Mabis McKenna Foundation.

The Trail Town Program® is offering matching grants to help businesses install bike racks and/or custom-made and locally-produced signs that reflect the special nature of each participating business along the Great Allegheny Passage. Contact Amy Camp, Trail Town Program® Manager for more information at (724) 216-9160 or

Coon Cave in Westmoreland County near Blairsville has been re-opened for recreation by Forbes State Forest. Further assessments are planned on Barton Cave near Uniontown and Lemon Hole Cave, also near Blairville. White nose syndrome in bats has been an issue. Inexperienced cavers should not go in alone: e-mail to contact the area caving organization.

The DCNR Bureau of Recreation and Conservation is now on Facebook. People are encouraged to friend the bureau at Pennsylvania Community Conservation Partnerships Program Grants to stay current with conservation and recreation funding and technical assistance news. Folks can also track Ohiopyle, Laurel Hill and Kooser State Parks as well as Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail on Facebook.

The state’s five-year Statewide Outdoor Recreation Plan was honored as the best in the nation by to the National Park Service and the National Association for Recreation Resource Planners at a recent conference.

The Rails to Trails Conservancy’s 9th annual Greenways Sojourn will pass through the Laurel Highlands and feature parts of the developing Pennsylvania Main Line Canal Greenway on July 19-24. Register now to explore the Path of the Flood, Ghost Town, Hoodlebug, West Penn, Roaring Run and Westmoreland Heritage Trails from just north of Johnstown through part of the Conemaugh River corridor and beyond. For information, visit the Rails to Trails Conservancy web site.

The AmeriServ Flood City Music Festival on August 5-7 will feature 25 musical performers including Gregg Allman, JJ Grey and Mofro, Bettye LaVette, Tab Benoit, the Hackensaw Boys and Shelf Life String Band. For information:

Events noted on the Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau web site ( include an Evening Eco-Paddle June 10 at Laurel Hill State Park, a fishing Derby and casting contest June 11 at Keystone State Park, the First Commonwealth Johnstown Film Festival June 15-18, National Road Chainsaw Carving Festival June 17 at Addison, the Laurel Highlands Bluegrass Festival June 17-18 at Waterford, and Braddock’s Crossing of the Youghiogheny in Connellsville on June 25.


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