‘BRYN COED IS CERTAINLY WORTH FIGHTING TO SAVE’
Plan calls for historic West Vincent farm preservation
WEST VINCENT >> One of the largest single tracts of pristine open space in Chester County would be largely protected from encroaching housing development under the terms of a plan put together by the Natural Lands Trust preservation organization, it was announced Friday.
Officials with the Mediabased land trust said in a news release that it had reached an agreement of sale with owners of Bryn Coed Farms that would fully protect about onethird of the 1,505 acres stretching across three townships in northern Chester County.
The rest of the land would be sold as large, 30-to-50 acre lots for single-family homes that would be placed under conservation easements, according to the announcement.
The trust came to the agreement with members of the Dietrich family on Sept. 28, and now has six months to conduct its due diligence on the property, including environmental testing and funding strategies for its purchase.
“The conservation of Bryn Coed Farms has been both a professional goal and a personal aspiration of mine for a long time,” said Molly Morri-
“It is the embodiment of the landscape in northern Chester County, of rolling hills and wooded hills and wooded landscapes, dotted with farms.” — Molly Morrison, Land Trust President
son, president of the land trust. She said her grandparents’ farm, where she spent many days in her youth, is nearby, giving her a lifelong connection to the property.
“It is the embodiment of the landscape in northern Chester County,” Morrison said in an interview. “Of rolling hills and wooded landscapes, dotted with farms. It means a lot to Natural Lands Trust to be part of the process to protect it from development.”
In its release, the trust said 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, with portions also in East Pikeland and West Pikeland, 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. That would have significant impacts on the Chester Springs community, as well as the environment of the Pickering Creek watershed, those involved say.
Development of Bryn Coed, said West Vincent Supervisor David Brown, who announced the agreement of sale to members of the township’s Open Space Committee on Tuesday — to what he remembered as a “standing ovation” — “would permanently change the character of West Vincent, from a rural area to suburbia.”
According to Morrison, the trust has been working with the Dietrichs for more than five years to conserve the land.
“It is too early to celebrate, but we are optimistic that much of this iconic property can be conserved,” she said. “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-plusacre nature preserve with eight miles of hiking trails that will be owned and managed by the trust. The preserve would 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 and the 1,263 acre ChesLen Preserve outside Marshallton. In addition, West Vincent is considering the chance to establish a 72-acre municipal park on the property, the news release stated.
The remainder of the property would be divided into large conservation properties, preserved by conservation easements, and sold to private individuals. The placements of the lots would be such that there would be as little impact as possible on the viewable landscape. Such a plan was instrumental in the conservation of the King Ranch in the 1980s.
“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,” Morrison said, noting that the trust would work with officials from the county and the township to secure land conservation grants, as well as with private donors. “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.”
She declined to discuss the agreed upon sale price of Bryn Coed, citing the confidential nature of the negotiations with the Dietrich family.
In the 1970s, the three Dietrich brothers — William, Daniel, and the late H. Richard Dietrich — heirs to the Ludens coughdrop company — 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, 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, including one involving the North American Land Trust of Chadds Ford.
The news release states that 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 highpriority land in the Pickering Creek watershed.
Persons interested in receiving more information as the Bryn Coed Farms conservation effort progresses are invited to visit www. natlands.org/bryncoed and sign up for email updates. 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, millions of people enjoy the healthy habitats, clean air and water, bountiful recreational opportunities, and scenic beauty provided by the lands the organization has preserved.
A barn complex at Bryn Coed, a 1,500-acre farm in West Vincent. A plan put together by Natural Lands Trust would preserve the property.
Much of the property at Bryn Coed is actively farmed or in pasture.