Hays Woods is a 636-acre area that sits atop the bluffs overlooking Hazelwood and the Monongahela River. This wild area once belonged to the Jones and Laughlin steel company, and because of its rough terrain, it has never been developed. With the end of a legal case this week, one drawn-out attempt to develop the area has come to a close.
In the rush to set up casinos in the Commonwealth, developer Charles Betters proposed building a casino and racetrack on the site’s summit. The plan called for removal of the coal bed, and a DEP mining permit was necessary. The DEP denied a permit. The state Environmental Hearing Board upheld the DEP’s permit denial. The developer appealed to the Commonwealth Court. On March 8, Betters’ attorneys withdrew the appeal and ended the legal case.
The end of this long legal case is a great relief for the members of the Save Hays Woods coalition that includes groups such as PennFuture, Clean Water Action, GASP, Sierra Club, et al. Mr. Betters still owns the property, which lies wholly within the bounds of the City of Pittsburgh. But any effort by anyone to develop the area will be complicated by the fact that Duquesne Light recently purchased from Betters the power line right-of-ways that criss-cross the site.
What the Save Hays Woods coalition hopes is that eventually the land will gain permanent protection as a wild area. In the meantime, this natural urban gem quietly matures in its undisturbed state.