Western PA Conservancy Acquires Property Along Bennett Branch In Elk County
A property recently acquired by the Western PA Conservancy will provide the public access to an Elk County stream that was once a dead, red-stained waterway but now is in the midst of remediation.
The Conservancy acquired more than 24 acres along the Bennett Branch of the Sinnemahoning River in Benezette Township this month. The undeveloped, forested property near State Route 555 contains 2,400 feet of stream frontage and is in the heart of the Pennsylvania Elk Range.
“By acquiring this land, we’re providing public access to a historically significant stream, ensuring future generations can enjoy fishing, boating and other outdoor recreation,” said WPC President and Chief Executive Officer Thomas D. Saunders.
The Bennett Branch, which flows through Clearfield, Elk and Cameron counties, was once a nationally noted trout fishing stream that was a favorite of U.S. President Ulysses Grant. Acid mine drainage impacted Bennett Branch, however, and heavy metals polluted the waterway.
The Bennett Branch Watershed Association has worked to remediate the stream; this acquisition by the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy builds on past projects. In 2008, the Conservancy facilitated a nearby 80-acre land purchase, on which a $14 million acid mine drainage treatment facility was built near the Clearfield-Elk County line.
The late Dr. Colson Blakeslee, a former WPC board member, had long called for increased public access to the stream. He believed the large public investment in the remediation project also should include an initiative to develop public access to ensure residents and visitors would be able to recreate in Bennett Branch.
“This acquisition is a first step toward fulfilling Dr. Blakeslee’s vision,” said Matt Marusiak, a land protection specialist with the Conservancy.
The Fish and Boat Commission, the Headwaters RC&D Council Sinnemahoning Endowment and the Richard King Mellon Foundation provided financial support for this project.
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