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Community Guide: Fox Chapel

Jul 30, 2015 01:36PM ● Published by Jill Cueni Cohen

Beechwood Farms Nature Reserve

Gallery: Fox Chapel [6 Images] Click any image to expand.

Township Manager Gary Koehler often says that Fox Chapel Borough is a small-town community with a popular name. “There are many businesses with the name Fox Chapel, but they’re not located in Fox Chapel,” he explained, noting that the borough is strictly residential. “People who grow up here like to stay and raise their families here; we often find multiple generations living near each other in single-family homes.”

A second-generation Fox Chapel resident himself, Mayor Alex Scott’s grandparents bought land in Fox Chapel Manor and developed it into residential lots in the early part of the century. “That was Fox Chapel’s first subdivision,” Scott recalled, noting that the area was originally a vacation destination for those who lived in the East End in the 1920s and ‘30s.

Surrounded by hundreds of acres of parks and open spaces, Koehler said that trees are so sacred in the borough that residents have to obtain a permit to cut one down. “We have miles of trails, including a new, off-road trail along Squaw Run East, which will run through the entire Borough from Beechwood Farms to Squaw Valley Park in O’Hara Township,” he said, adding that their close proximity to the city of Pittsburgh makes Fox Chapel a desirable place to reside. “It’s just far enough away that you feel like you live in the country.”

Award-winning Places to Learn
Despite having one of the lowest millage rates in Allegheny County, Fox Chapel Area School District has earned national and state recognition, with all six schools in the district designated as National Blue Ribbon Schools. Fox Chapel’s high school, which already provides students with the latest in video, computer, science, digital art, technology, and music labs, is currently undergoing a renovation which will include the addition of a new swimming pool and a renovated library/media center and auditorium.

As one of the oldest independent schools in western Pennsylvania since establishing its senior school in Fox Chapel in 1922, Shady Side Academy has the distinction of having opened the first standalone middle school in the region in 1958. The new Hillman Center for Performing Arts, which is located on the Shady Side Academy Senior School campus, has become the area’s community center. Free programs are offered throughout the year, and residents are encouraged to stage their own events, including film screenings, dance recitals, art exhibits, cultural festivals and performances.

The Fox Chapel Farmers’ Market is open every Wednesday from 3 to 6 p.m. from June through October, and takes place on Shady Side Academy’s Senior School campus. Locally sourced seasonal produce and specialty items come from farms and vendors within a 120-mile radius, including the Academy’s own campus farm.

Cooper-Siegel Community Library, which opened in 2011, has also become a community treasure, boasting the latest technology, a reading room with a fireplace, the Lauri Ann West Children’s Room, and even a welcome garden that allows for reading or meditating outdoors.

Getting Outside
Fox Chapel boasts two highly ranked golf courses—the Fox Chapel Golf Club and the Pittsburgh Field Club. Selected as one of the Top 100 Best Classic Golf Courses in 2015 by Golfweek magazine, the Seth Raynor-designed course at the Fox Chapel Gold Club was also named one of the Top 100 courses in the U.S. in 2014 by Golf magazine. In addition to being one of the oldest clubs in the United States, the Pittsburgh Field Club is also unique in that players must use an elevator to get from the 17th green to the 18th tee.

Beechwood Farms Nature Reserve on Dorseyville Road is the headquarters of the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania, where the Society’s mission is to connect people to birds and nature through its programs, projects and places. “Naturalist-led nature walks are held year-round on Wednesday mornings at 9 a.m., and we also hold year-round programs for fledglings (preschoolers) and kids 2 and under who come with their parents to explore the outdoors, make crafts, hear stories, and get introduced to the wonders of nature,” said Communications Director Rachel Handel. In addition, an outdoor exploration area called DiscoverGround encourages people of all ages to explore a fort, climb on logs, tunnel in a cave and use their imaginations.

Beechwood also offers a number of native plant programs to help people learn to integrate native plants into their own gardens. “Native plants attract birds, beneficial insects and butterflies, and many are deer-resistant,” said Handel, noting that Beechwood is also home to Audubon Center for Native Plants, where people can buy plants to take home. “We also encourage people to visit us for special events, including Creatures of the Night, a non-scary Halloween adventure through our trails at night, and Maple Madness, which takes visitors on a journey through the history of maple sugaring.”

Upcoming Events
There are a number of fun events happening at the Cooper-Siegel Community Library and at Beechwood Farms Nature Reserve. For a full listing, visit www.coopersiegelcommunitylibrary.org and www.aswp.org.

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