Visitors to Gilfillan Farm in Upper St. Clair often tell Rachel Carlson they had little knowledge of the 15-acre rural oasis in the midst of suburban South Hills.

“People just drive past green space and don’t even notice it’s there,” Carlson said. “So it’s always great to have something new to engage people.”

The president of the Historical Society of Upper St. Clair, which owns the farm property, was happy to welcome newcomers and familiar faces alike during a July 31 event that provided meet-and-greet opportunities with members of local organizations.

Among them was the Community Foundation of Upper St. Clair, which is wrapping up a health-focused initiative called Step Out St. Clair! Gilfillan Farm is ringed by the township-owned Gilfillan Trail, a focal point of the initiative as a place for getting plenty of exercise.

“This is a good time to remind people, especially if you’re walking, to hydrate,” foundation trustee Terry Kish said as she and other volunteers welcomed guests. “So we’re passing out reusable water bags.”

The foundation’s goal is to provide financial support for special programs and projects that are not funded by tax dollars, and the nonprofit group of civic-minded residents recently awarded a mini-grant to Horses With Hope to purchase a mounting block, making it easier for riders to climb onto the saddle.

Horses With Hope, another nonprofit that provides therapeutic riding programs, recently moved its operations to Gilfillan Farm. During the July 31 event, guests were able to visit with some of the horses and the myotonic, or fainting, goats that also are among the organization’s four-legged friends.

Also participating in the event were Upper St. Clair Township Library, which had a series of signs for a “story walk” posted on the fence along the trail, and volunteers who tend to the Alexander Gilfillan Garden, a combined project including Westminster Presbyterian Church, Upper St. Clair High School and South Hills Interfaith Movement.

“We were really excited to be able to partner across so many groups today, and there have been so many people stopping to visit,” Carlson said. “It’s been awesome.”

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Staff writer Harry Funk, a professional journalist for three-plus decades, has been on the staff of The Almanac since 2015. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and master of business administration, both from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

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