East Park Reservoir opened in 1889, designed to provide clean water to more than 80% of the city’s residents. An international engineering marvel, the project became the pride of Philadelphia’s world-renowned water works system. Over time, the west basin evolved naturally into a pristine lake and the site grows dense with vegetation, becoming a critical stopover point for migrating birds and one of Philadelphia’s most unusual natural wildlife habitats. With a continuing decline in city population, the Philadelphia Water Department abandoned the use of the reservoir’s west basin as a city water supply system, erects fences, and closes off 50 acres of parkland from public access in 1970. The Discovery Center reopens this public asset to the Philadelphia community.
Completed just a few months ago, the Discovery Center represents a groundbreaking venture by Audubon Pennsylvania and the Philadelphia Outward Bound School and demonstrates a national model for partnership and collaboration. The facility serves as the base of operations for the Philadelphia Outward Bound School, a chartered affiliate of the nation’s preeminent provider of active learning expeditions. The National Audubon Society uses The Discovery Center as a facility for research and science-based conservation projects and educational programs throughout the Philadelphia region.
Visitors will tour the building and grounds, including a guided hike along the trail that surrounds the reservoir. The building and site feature several innovative design strategies including several aimed at providing a bird-safe environment and includes a series of unique structures, both indoor and out, utilized by Outward Bound students to build skills and confidence.
Parks & Recreation
Health, Safety and Welfare
1 Describe the benefits of a public-private partnership relative to the maintenance of public landscape.
2 Describe building techniques aimed to protect and create migratory and native bird habitat.
3 Discuss integration of site and building in support of a constructed landscape experience.
4 Learn about the legacy of the World’s Fair and the history of the City’s world-renowned water works system.
Kieth Russell, Program Manager, Urban ConservationAudubon Pennsylvaniakrussell@audubon.orgDan Hoffman, Operations DirectorPhiladelphia Outward Bound SchoolJulie Bush, PartnerGround ReconsideredJules Dingle, PrincipalDIGSAU