MIDDLESEX TWP — While their mission was accomplished — fish, fowl and frogs now inhabit the repaired Glade Run Lake — the lake's conservancy is far from finished.
Siggy Pehel, president of the conservancy, and board member Dave Fowler are beginning a project that they hope will result in the doubling of the lake property and the creation of a new, 2,000-acre watershed.
Pehel explained that it is imperative to protect the 52-acre lake, which was repaired and refilled after being drained in July 2011 due to dam deficiencies.
The conservancy raised funds, acquired grants, stumped for memberships and prodded politicians until the lake was triumphantly reopened one year ago.
Now, Pehel and Fowler want to protect the “gem of Middlesex” from the ever-increasing development in the township by buying properties adjacent to the lake, acquiring conservation easements from properties around the lake that contain feeder streams, and working with the county Agricultural Preservation Board to acquire agricultural easements from properties neighboring the lake.
Pehel said the project could take 10 years and cost an estimated $4 million to $5 million.
Pehel said the Blackhawk housing plan and the huge Middlesex Crossings residential and retail plan are both a few miles from the lake, and a new 113-home Ryan Homes housing plan is in the works just a half mile from the lake.
Most of the property around the lake is zoned agricultural, Pehel said, but residents or developers could petition township officials to rezone it for residential use. That, he said, would sink the project.
However, the township's board of supervisors has approved grants for the repair and refilling of the lake, and Mike Spreng, supervisor chairman, was an active member of the conservancy for six years.
“I think Mike and the people in Middlesex are looking to keep that green space we have and work with us to expand it,” Pehel said.
To create a 2,000-acre watershed, which would surround the lake and prevent development, the conservancy plans to buy any adjacent property possible, buy conservation easements on properties containing streams that feed the lake, and work with the preservation board to acquire easements from farms and large properties surrounding the lake.
The easements would never expire, meaning nothing could ever be built on them, Pehel said.
“A combination of these various purchase methods will enable us to enlarge the existing lake property, save the streams and water sources that feed into the lake, and protect the lake from future development encroachment,” Pehel said. “The watershed project plan will protect the water sources and lake.”
To pay for the expansive project, Pehel said he and Fowler plan to approach various foundations in the region to get initial grants. Once funds build up, they will be leveraged as matching funds for larger grants.
Pehel said a 125-acre parcel adjacent to the northern end of the lake property is for sale, and the conservancy is interested in buying it.
Known as the “airport property” because an airstrip once allowed ultra light aircraft, small airplanes and hot air balloons to land and take off there, the unoccupied land would fit well with the existing lake property.
“That property is very important because close to 60 acres are wooded,” Pehel said. “That would work very nicely with the existing trails we have.”
Fowler, whose own land abuts the lake property, said he has casually mentioned the idea to two friends who own land near the lake since the project is still in its infancy.
The next step, he said, is to send letters to each landowner in the prospective watershed and apprise them of the project and its parameters as well as ask for feedback.
Then all the landowners will be invited to a meeting that will include easement experts and conservancy members, where they can ask questions and share input with the conservancy.
“The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy and the Allegheny Land Trust are providing some expertise,” Fowler said.
He said it is imperative to preserve the township's unique assets that are green space and environmental so that when development peaks, those residents have somewhere to go to enjoy nature.
“We can improve the entire community by increasing this green space,” Fowler said.
He said the property, which Pehel envisions not as a park but a natural facility similar to Jennings Nature Reserve, would end up being an economic boon for southern Butler County and beyond.
“Butler County could become the place where Pittsburgh goes for recreation, and that could open up all kinds of economic possibilities in the area,” Fowler said.
Pehel and Fowler agree that the major payoff for all their work on the lake and now the watershed project will occur much later.
“We want our children and future generations to be able to enjoy the lake and all it has to offer to picnickers, kayakers, fishermen and hikers for many years to come,” Pehel said.
“Our grandchildren will be the ones to be really impacted,” Fowler said.
More information and the opportunity to donate is available at www.gladerunlakeconservancy.org.