Plan calls for his­toric West Vin­cent farm preser­va­tion

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Michael P. Rel­la­han mrel­la­han@21st-cen­tu­ry­media. com @Ch­escoCourtNews on Twit­ter

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.

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