The hill into the upper trails of Barking Slopes Conservation Area is no small feat. The orange, clay-laden soil boasts a steep terrain topped with loose rocks that easily slide when dry and further erode with rain. It’s one of our “up-and-coming” conservation areas to visit, but its current rough state never stops ALT member and volunteer Todd Hooe.
Todd takes to the hill with momentum, familiarity, and ease. He can carry a conversation while climbing the hill, and all the while, he’s still attentive to nature; he turns an ear to a far-off sound, takes a moment to listen, and identifies the bird whose call he thinks he’s heard. Of the 147 species of birds logged at the green space, Todd has logged 142.
“(Barking Slopes) is a weird place to be by yourself, which is why I like it. …It has a sort of haunting solitude,” Todd said. “(Barking Slopes) is a purposeful, peaceful place to escape to.”
Having learned of Allegheny Land Trust in the early 2010s during a trip to Sycamore Island, Todd has volunteered for more than five years at Barking Slopes Conservation Area, tending to the trails, logging bird species, and helping ALT make ecological considerations during the trail planning processes.
“I really appreciate all the green space in the county, and I wanted to spend my time productively to help improve those things,” Todd said. “It’s gratifying to help maintain a space I enjoy, to meet nice people, and to learn more about what’s near you.”
Nature played a big role in Todd’s childhood, as his father was a botanist and college professor, and his family would often spend time outdoors. Today, his appreciation of nature has only grown and developed into a proactive approach toward conservation. Even when he’s not volunteering, Todd will spend the weekend sunrises at Barking Slopes with a cup of coffee, a pair of binoculars, and an ear to the green space until 8 hours have passed in the blink of an eye.
While he makes use of the trails as a peaceful escape from the 9-5 work week in the concrete jungle, Todd also brings back a piece of the outdoors to the work week: he brings nature to the children with autism that he works with. Todd has walked with the children he works with at Dead Man’s Hollow and tries to get them out in nature as much as possible.
“As a child, these places were so important to me,” Todd said, adding that some of the kids he works with have pretty challenging underlying behaviors. “Some can really be at their best when they’re in nature.”
It is thanks to supporters and conservationists like Todd Hooe that our conservation areas thrive, that we become aware of concerns on our green spaces, and that future generations are introduced to and bonded with nature.
25th Anniversary Supporter Stories
ALT has thrived for 25 years thanks to help from hundreds of supporters ranging from casual volunteers to major donors. Sigo’s story is one of 25 that we’ll be sharing in 2018 as part of celebrating our 25th Anniversary.
Allegheny Land Trust is a land conservation nonprofit helping local people save local land in the Pittsburgh region. We’ve protected more than 2,100 acres of green spaces that contributes to our regions unique scenic quality, biodiversity, and water quality. Our strategic priorities are in land protection, stewardship, environmental education, and urban greening; through this work, we create places for passive recreation and provide environmental education opportunities for all ages. Resulting from our quarter century of conservation practices, every Allegheny County resident lives within 12 miles of an Allegheny Land Trust conservation area. These green spaces improve the quality of life for all through opportunities for recreation, education, nature appreciation, improved or maintained water quality, sequestered carbon and improved air quality, enhanced property values, habitat creation, and more.