Wednesday, July 27 2022 10:09

Final Piece in Place

Written by Kirsten Wener, Natural Lands

Bryn Coed Farms' land is permanently conserved

Photo by Caleb Arrowood

Four years after Natural Lands purchased the 1,505-acre Bryn Coed Farms — then the largest remaining unprotected swath of land in the Philadelphia area — the final piece of the property has been permanently conserved. In one of the most ambitious conservation projects in recent history, the entirety of the land is now protected from development forever.


Some Background

In the 1970s, the Dietrich brothers assembled the vast acreage in Chester Springs, Chester County one parcel at a time. One of these tracts was the former homestead of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Owen J. Roberts, a place he had named “Bryn Coed” (which means “wooded hill” in Welsh).

As development pressures increased in the region, many worried about the fate of the pristine farmland and forests, located just 30 miles northwest of Philadelphia. Concerns mounted in 2003 when the Dietrich brothers decided to divest themselves of Bryn Coed Farms. Under township zoning, nearly 700 homes could have been constructed there.

Natural Lands’ Role

In 2016, Natural Lands purchased the entire 1,505 acres from the Dietrich family. The land trust set aside 520 acres at the heart of the property to create a nature preserve with more than 10 miles of trails. West Vincent Township purchased an additional 72 acres that are now a public park adjacent to the preserve. The remaining acres were divided into 39 lots that were placed under conservation easements and sold.

“I’m thrilled to announce that, on December 6, 2021, the final lot was sold, marking a successful conclusion to this ambitious land 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.”

Grants Saved the Day

Photo by Mark Williams

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 the 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.

Saving Big Trees

Several important trees located at Bryn Coed 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 Big Trees of Pennsylvania Register,  managed by the Pennsylvania Forestry Association.

  • Kobus magnolia (Magnolia kobus), largest of its kind in Pennsylvania.
  • Sassafras (Sassafras albidium), second largest of its kind in Pennsylvania.
  • American beech (Fogus grandifolia). Bryn Coed Preserve has two of these lovely native trees, ranked third and seventh largest in the state.
  • White oak (Quercus alba). The magnificent white oak tree along Flint Road is on the Big Trees Register, but far from the largest in the state.

Four other trees at Bryn Coed are in the process of being nominated and measured for the 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)

Visit to learn more.

Natural Lands is dedicated to preserving and nurturing nature’s wonders while creating opportunities for joy and discovery in the outdoors. As the Greater Philadelphia region’s oldest and largest land conservation organization, member-supported Natural Lands 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 its protection. Land for life, nature for all.