Twin Lakes Park gets a lot of visitors, but did you know that there is another, different but equally wonderful Westmoreland County Park just a few miles down the road? It’s called Ann Rudd Saxman Nature Park and it’s a 63-acre natural wooded oasis tucked between Donohoe Road and Route 30.
Recently, the District oversaw some improvements to this unique passive park that is a perfect place to take a fall walk in the woods. We upgraded trails…sprayed some of the undesirable, invasive plants that were taking over in some areas…and planted native trees and shrubs, protecting them from browsing deer by adding fencing and tree shelters.
This special park is named for Ann Rudd Saxman, who was an associate director of the District, a skilled horticultural designer, a trained botanist, and an early advocate for the preservation of open space. It was at her urging in 1960 that the Westmoreland County Commissioners set aside this large tract of undeveloped land for a nature park that has since been named in her honor.
In the 59 years since its conservation, the park has remained undeveloped and lightly managed. The latest improvements are part of a new stewardship plan that also lays out a series of ongoing management actions to be taken over the next 10 years.
The park’s main access point is on Donohoe Road in Hempfield Township, about one mile from that road’s intersection with Route 30 at Westmoreland Mall. The trail from this parking area to the edge of the woodland is one of the recent improvements. Drainage issues were repaired and the trail received a fresh limestone dust surface. A portion of the woodland trail itself also has been improved to better meet accessibility standards. Herbicides were properly applied to remove invasive Oriental bush honeysuckles, multiflora rose, privet, tree of heaven, and Norway maple on
a 10-acre area of the park close to the trail heads, and native trees, including oaks and understory shrubs, were planted in their place with the help of volunteers from the Westmoreland Woodlands Improvement Association, Saint Vincent College, and True Health and Fitness.
Funding for the recent Nature Park improvements was provided by a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Community Conservation Partnerships Program and contributors to the District’s “Sustaining Conservation” campaign, the Foundation for PA Watersheds and Dominion Foundation. Staff from the Westmoreland Conservation District and the Westmoreland County Bureau of Parks and Recreation provided in-kind support.