When Washington County signed a lease with Marcellus Shale drilling company Range Resources to develop natural gas in Cross Creek County Park, the county and the company shared two common goals: responsibly develop the resources under the 2,000-acre park, and provide maximum benefit to the taxpayers and residents of Washington County.
Recently, the county unveiled a brand-new walking trail. Just over three miles, the trail begins near the new Thompson Hill boat launch and playground area. From there, it winds through the wooded park, providing walkers and runners with new ways to explore and enjoy the foliage and hidden wildlife.
The walking trail is the culmination of a multi-year partnership between the county and Range Resources that has also included upgrades like new playgrounds, a new boat launch area, new pavilions, parking and restrooms in Cross Creek County Park and in other County parks.
“Cross Creek County Park is one of the crown jewels of southwestern Pennsylvania,” says Washington County Commissioner, Larry Maggi. “We’ve got the beautiful lake, we have the docks, and now our new three-mile walking trail.”
Maggi’s fellow County Commissioner Harlan Shober points to a partnership between Range Resources and the county as the key to recent improvements.
“You know, parks and recreation is usually the last thing funded in a government agency. And what this allowed us to do, partnering with Range – is to utilize the monies coming from the gas, both the leases and the royalties that come from it, and we’ve been putting that money right back into our parks,” says Shober. “Not only Cross Creek but we have the Panhandle Trail, we have Ten Mile Park down on the other side of the county, and we have Mingo Park – and if you look at all these parks there are new restrooms, there are walking trails, along with upgraded playground equipment and new bridges. We also now have handicapped access for the fishermen, and places to launch boats on both sides of the park.”
Right now, Range Resources has just over 30 wells in production in Cross Creek County Park. The natural gas wells are located on nine different pads, and have generated more than $40 million for Washington County.
“All of the things we’ve done here are a result of having a partnership with Range Resources,” says Maggi. “A lot of folks don’t think the environment and the gas industry can work together, but I think we’ve shown that they can.”
The walking trail was in the works for several years, but like any project that involves excavating, moving and redistributing soil – it required many hours of planning and the acquisition of all necessary permits. Construction began in 2016, under the supervision of Range Resources Civil and Environmental Engineer, Matt Fortney.
“Once we got started, we had a few delays along the way. One significant factor was all the rain we had in spring and early summer 2017,” says Fortney. But finally, the skies cleared, and the team brought the project to fruition. “We’re happy with how it turned out, we had great contractors working on it, from excavation to providing the very specific stone the trail is lined with, and I hope people enjoy it for years to come.”
In addition to visible upgrades to the park, there were other projects that were less immediately apparent, but just as important. In 2014, Range began a collaboration with the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF), the county, and NiSource Midstream to restore two areas that added up to approximately 33-acres of land in Cross Creek County Park. Prior to any restoration efforts taking place – the targeted land was mostly blanketed with an inhospitable mix of weeds and invasive plant species. A plan to reclaim, restore and replant the land with a mix of clovers and wildflowers was developed – and now the area is a wildlife friendly habitat that attracts and nurtures an array of turkeys, smaller birds, deer and other wildlife.
Range Resources Environmental Compliance Policy Manager Jeremy Matinko was involved in the NWTF effort from the beginning.
“It’s rewarding to work for a company that gets involved in conservation projects like this that benefit the community, and also demonstrate that energy development and wildlife can easily coexist,” says Matinko.
Washington County Commissioner Diana Irey Vaughan joins her colleagues Larry Maggi and Harlan Shober in looking forward to the park enriching the lives of Washington County residents for many years to come.
“Our parks are one amenity that all tax payers can use,” says Vaughan. “This is something that everyone in our county can benefit from. Range Resources is probably the best community partner Washington County has ever seen, and we are very grateful to Range Resources for everything they’ve done for us.”
This article is written and sponsored by Range Resources.