One Step Closer to Preservation of Bryn Coed Farms
On September 28, 2016, Natural Lands Trust and the Dietrich family executed an Agreement of Sale for a 1,505-acre property known as Bryn Coed Farms. Natural Lands Trust now has six months to conduct due diligence, including Phase II environmental testing.
The fate of the property has been the subject of much speculation over the years as development pressures have increased in the region. Located primarily in West Vincent Township, Chester County, with portions also in East and West Pikeland Townships, the property is one of the largest remaining undeveloped, unprotected tracts of land in the Greater Philadelphia region. Under current zoning, nearly 700 homes could be built on the property if it is not placed under protection.
Opportunities to preserve an iconic landscape like Bryn Coed Farms don’t come around every day. Fortunately, the Dietrich family has embraced a conservation solution for the property and, thanks to the generosity of a number of public partners and the neighboring community, Natural Lands Trust has the chance to create a unique 1,505-acre conservation community.
“It is too early to celebrate, but we are optimistic that much of this iconic property can be conserved,” said Molly Morrison, president of Natural Lands Trust. “It’s a complex deal with many moving parts, but Bryn Coed is certainly worth fighting to save. It’s a community and ecological treasure.”
If successful, the deal would result in a 400-plus-acre nature preserve with eight miles of hiking trails that will be owned and managed by Natural Lands Trust. The preserve will be open to visitors, free of charge, just like other nature preserves owned by the regional conservation group—including the 112-acre Binky Lee Preserve in nearby Chester Springs. In addition, West Vincent Township is considering Natural Lands Trust’s offer to establish a 72-acre municipal park on the property.
The remainder of the property would be divided into large conservation properties, preserved by conservation easements, and sold to private individuals.
“The amount of land that can be permanently protected as a Natural Lands Trust preserve is dependent on the amount of funding we can raise. The cost of preserving the entirety of such a vast and valuable property is beyond the currently available resources. We will be seeking support from the public in the weeks and months ahead,” Morrison added.
About Bryn Coed Farms:
In the 1970’s, the three Dietrich brothers began assembling the property by acquiring adjoining farms as they became available. One such property was the 700-acre former homestead of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Owen J. Roberts. Roberts, who moved there in 1929 and named his farm Bryn Coed, which means “wooded hill” in Welsh.
In 2003, the Dietrich brothers decided to divest themselves of the property. Various conservation and development options were explored but never came to a successful conclusion. In recent years, several developers have been in negotiations with the Deitrichs.
Much of the property is actively farmed or in pasture. There are nearly 500 acres of mature woodlands on the property that are home to a myriad of songbirds and other wildlife. Generations of residents and visitors have enjoyed the pastoral views of Bryn Coed Farms.
The land also contains the headwaters to Pickering Creek, and is a high priority for source water protection. Bryn Coed Farms alone constitutes 17 percent of the remaining unprotected high-priority land in the Pickering Creek watershed.
“When the family first assembled this land, it was with a clear eye toward sustainability and protection. We feel it is only right that it continue to be an environmental treasure, and that it also be a place for public enjoyment,” said Richard Dietrich. “As we embark on this new chapter for Bryn Coed, we know we have chosen a great partner for its protection. Natural Lands Trust is an organization with the experience and the ability to achieve the results we all want for the sake of conservation.”
Persons interested in receiving more information as the Bryn Coed Farms conservation effort progresses are invited to sign up for email updates (below).
Those interested in learning more about the conservation properties that will be available for sale should contact Brian Sundermeir, Bryn Coed project manager, at 610-353-5587, ext. 237.
Natural Lands Trust is the region’s largest land conservation organization and is dedicated to protecting the forests, fields, streams, and wetlands that are essential to the sustainability of life in eastern Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey. Since its founding in 1953, Natural Lands Trust has preserved more than 100,000 acres, including 43 nature preserves totaling nearly 22,000 acres. Today, some 2.5 million people live within five miles of land under the organization’s protection.
Photos by Alessandra Manzotti