The Kellman and Skena Nature Reserves
The Lillian Kellman Nature Reserve was originally a farm. It was last owned by Fred Kellman and his daughter Lillian and was actively farmed until the mid-sixties.
Lillian continued to live on the family farm long after her parents died. Much had changed during her lifetime; adjoining farms were sold off to developers, leaving Lillian’s property as the last open space remaining in the most densely developed area of Murrysville. Life was sweet as long as she could hold on to her lane. But the continuing problem of finding sufficient money to pay her taxes finally proved to be impossible, and the court assigned an attorney to settle her affairs.
Neighbors realized that Lillian's problems were real when a public hearing was called to consider changing the property’s zoning from S-1 (special conservation) to R-2 (residential dwellings on half-acre lots). A fifty-seven acres plot was about to be converted into a sea of houses. The realization that this precious space was about to disappear catalyzed the surrounding neighbors into action. A committee called Save Open Space (or S.O.S.) was formed to galvanize public support to preserve the Kellman Farm as a Nature Reserve. After that, on June 5, 1991, the Westmoreland Conservancy was formed as a private foundation with provisional 501(c)(3) status. An agreement was reached with the Municipality to work together to obtain the funding needed to purchase the Kellman farm. In the course of the next two years, over $345,000 was raised from individuals, businesses, foundations, and State grants. In addition, the Municipality took on the responsibility and cost of maintaining a curtilage for Lillian to continue living on her farm for the remainder of her life. The developer who had hoped to purchase the property once it was rezoned graciously bowed out when it became evident that the overwhelming majority of residents wanted to see the open space preserved as a nature reserve. A newspaper at the time referred to the brigade that launched the drive as “housewives in slippers”, which was not far from the truth.
Lillian Kellman passed away in 1997; her house and barn were razed. A group of volunteers cleaned up the home site and developed hiking trails through what was named the Lilian Kellman Nature Reserve, a Municipal park. Years later, a parcel adjoining the Kellman Reserve owned by the Skena family was available for sale. There was interest in residential development on small parcels, and again there was opposition from the neighbors. With the help of several donors and the Municipality, the parcel was purchased and became the Skena Reserve.
As indicated, the Kellman and Skena Reserves are adjacent to each other; there
are no boundary markers and the trails cover both parcels.