Bryn Coed Conservation Community Complete
final conservation easement placed on 1,505 acres in Chester Springs
MEDIA, Pa., March 31, 2022 – Four years after Natural Lands purchased the 1,505-acre Bryn Coed Farms—then the largest remaining unprotected swatch of land in the Philadelphia area—the final piece of the property was permanently conserved. In one of the most ambitious conservation projects in recent history, the entirety of the land is now protected from development… forever.
In the 1970s, the Dietrich brothers assembled the vast acreage known as Bryn Coed Farms one parcel at a time. One of these tracts was the former homestead of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Owen J. Roberts, who named his farm “Bryn Coed,” which means “wooded hill” in Welsh. Many worried over the fate of the pristine farmland and forests—located just 30 miles northwest of Philadelphia—as development pressures increased in the region. Concerns mounted when, in 2003, the Dietrich brothers decided to divest themselves of Bryn Coed Farms. Under township zoning, nearly 700 homes could have been constructed there.
In 2016, Natural Lands—the region’s oldest and largest land conservation nonprofit—signed an agreement with the Dietrich family to purchase the entire 1,505 acres for preservation. They created a 520-acre nature preserve at the heart of the property with more than 10 miles of trails. Bryn Coed Preserve is open, free of charge, to all. Visitors flock to the preserve in all seasons.
Natural Lands protected the remainder of the property by selling large parcels to conservation buyers, all of whom agreed to land protection agreements that permanently restrict development. Additionally, Natural Lands sold West Vincent Township the 72 acres that are now a public park adjacent to the preserve.
“I’m thrilled to that we’ve reached this milestone—the final lot sale—which marks the successful conclusion to this ambitious land protection project,” said Natural Lands President Oliver Bass. “Saving Bryn Coed was the chance of a lifetime, but it required a tremendous amount of work—and a tireless community of supporters. We’re forever grateful to our generous funders, forward-thinking elected officials, and talented land protection team. We went out on a limb on this one, and it was so worth it.”
Much of the property is actively farmed or in pasture. Nearly 500 acres of mature woodlands grace the property, home to myriad songbirds and other wildlife.
There are several trees located at Bryn Coed that might have been bulldozed to make way for hundreds of homes had the land not been protected. Here are a few of note, some of which are listed on the Pennsylvania Big Trees of Pennsylvania Register, which is managed by the Pennsylvania Forestry Association. (Visit pabigtrees.com for more information.)
- Kobus magnolia (Magnolia kobus)
Largest of its kind in Pennsylvania
- Sassafras (Sassafras albidum)
Second largest of its kind in Pennsylvania
- American beech (Fagus grandifolia)
Bryn Coed Preserve has two of these lovely native trees that rank third and seventh largest in the state of Pennsylvania
- White oak (Quercus alba)
The magnificent white oak tree on Bryn Coed Preserve along Flint Road is on the Big Trees Register, but far from the largest in the state.
There are four other trees at Bryn Coed that are in the process of being nominated and measured for inclusion among the state’s Big Trees. They are
- shagbark hickory (Carya ovata)
- bitternut hickory (Carya cordiformis)
- black gum (Nyssa sylvatica)
- black birch (Betula lenta)
The property contains the headwaters to Pickering Creek and is a high priority for source water protection. Bryn Coed Preserve alone constitutes 17 percent of the remaining unprotected high-priority land in the Pickering Creek watershed.
Natural Lands received grant support from the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (Community Conservation Partnerships Program), Chester County, West Vincent Township, and West Pikeland Township. There was a sizeable funding gap to cover even with these generous grants, so Natural Lands launched the Campaign for Bryn Coed Farms in 2017. Thanks in large part to an exceptional challenge grant from the William Penn Foundation, the Campaign—chaired by Chester Springs residents George and Christy Martin, and Peter and Eliza Zimmerman—met its goal in one year’s time with more than 700 households making donations ranging from $5 to $500,000.
Natural Lands is dedicated to preserving and nurturing nature’s wonders while creating opportunities for joy and discovery in the outdoors for everyone. As the Greater Philadelphia region’s oldest and largest land conservation organization, Natural Lands—which is member supported—has preserved more than 125,000 acres, including 42 nature preserves and one public garden totaling more than 23,000 acres. Nearly five million people live within five miles of land under the organization’s protection. Land for life, nature for all. natlands.org.
Mae Axelrod, Media Relations Manager
610-353-5587 ext. 400