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First Phase Of New Botanic Garden Now Open

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – In a woodsy corner of Oakdale, the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden opened its first 60 acres Friday morning.

"We have three miles of trails, and one of them is handicapped accessible," says development director Kitty Vagley. She says there are more to come, on the remaining 400 acres of what was once farm country.

"And then it slowly became much more industrialized," she explained. "In the 1920s, the mining industry really came in and did deep mining. They came back in the 1940s and did strip-mining on the site."

Allegheny County bought the property, but decades passed before a reclamation effort finally took root.

"In 2010, we started work on this 60 acres," Vagley recalls.

The 19th century barn will be transformed into an events and education center. School groups have been coming since 2011.

"There's two caterpillars on there right now," says volunteer teacher Kim Muirhead to a group of youngsters. She and other volunteers open a world of nature.

Watch Pittsburgh Botanic Garden board member Bill Kolano's Interview On Pittsburgh Today Live:

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell joined local officials, officially cutting the ribbon. She had high praise for the public-private partnership.

"How do you take something that has been a problem, an abandoned mine from many years ago, and turn it into something that is part of a brighter future, that says come to live in Pittsburgh, play in Pittsburgh, learn in Pittsburgh," Secretary Jewell said.

Kitty Vagley has the answer.

"It is just a testament to Pittsburghers and their pride of place."

Eventually, the 400-acre Pittsburgh Botanic Garden will include 18 gardens, five woodland experiences, an amphitheater for outdoor concerts and performances, an event center and a botanic research facility. The project will continue to be developed in the coming years.

Groundbreaking Held For Pittsburgh's Botanic Garden (7/25/2012)
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