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How to Save a Park

Protect PT is hosting a community workshop about fracking in Murrysville on Saturday, April 6, at 11 AM at the Murrysville Community Center, 3091 Carson Ave, Murrysville, PA 15668. We hope to see you there!




In 2023, Olympus Energy, a fracking corporation, approached Murrysville. They sought permission to extend laterals from their fracking wells to the area underneath Duff Park and Murrysville Community Park. Suddenly, about 600 acres of public land subsurface rights were up for sale.


The public outcry came swiftly. “I have children who are 1 and 4,” resident Meredith Juchniewicz said to Murrysville Council. “We really took our time deciding where we want to live, and we fell in love with Murrysville’s parks before we even moved here. I remember going to Deer Lakes Park before and after fracking started, and I wasn’t going to let my children play anywhere near the lake. We saw chemical sheen on the water, dead fish, and it’s very concerning to think of that happening here.”


Juchniewicz was referring to Deer Lakes Park in Allegheny County, where Allegheny County Council allowed subsurface leasing in 2015. Scientists from Duquesne University later discovered fracking surfactant chemicals contaminating the surface water.


I share Meredith's concerns. I was born and raised in Murrysville, and lived there for 20 years. I use Duff Park and the Westmoreland Heritage Trail on a monthly basis, going for walks and bike rides there with my family and my partner. I have strong beliefs about what our parks are for, and subsurface industrial activity isn't on my list.


After the proposal was announced, Murrysville residents identified legal issues with the leases to Duff Park, several of which had not granted the gas rights to the Municipality. One property in particular, the original Duff Heirs 88 acre parcel, had been leased in such a way that no one could exploit the gas rights–not the heirs, not Murrysville, and certainly not Olympus Energy. In response to these concerns, Murrysville removed 250 acres of parkland from consideration.


However, despite a flurry of Letters to the Editor, a petition with 174 signatures, a recommendation from the Environmental Advisory Council to slow down and hold a hearing, and 40 residents in opposition attending the final vote, Murrysville Council narrowly voted in December 2023 to proceed with leasing the remaining 350 acres of subsurface rights.


Protect PT asked its members in Murrysville whether they viewed that as the end of the road. They did not. They asked us to keep fighting. So, we closely examined the remaining leases in the sale and found potential problems with three of them, totaling about 75 acres.


It breaks my heart that there isn’t a legal pathway to preserve every acre, but we’ll fight to save every inch that we can.


By using a clause in the Murrysville Charter called a “citizen’s petition,” we can force a vote of Murrysville Council. We cannot tell them how to vote, but we can force them to take a vote. Though success is by no means guaranteed, there is some hope that there are two new members of Murrysville Council who were seated in January, whose positions on the subject are not yet known.



So, how do we save a park?


Together.





Did you catch that? Protect PT is hosting a community workshop about fracking in Murrysville on Saturday, April 6, at 11 AM, at the Murrysville Community Center, 3091 Carson Ave, Murrysville, PA 15668! 😄

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