For the past 45 years, East Park Reservoir and the 50 acres of parkland surrounding it have been behind a locked fence. But this pristine area located within the boundaries of Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park will soon be a haven for education and exploration, thanks to a joint effort between two organizations: Outward Bound and the National Audubon Society.
Encompassing 37 acres, East Park Reservoir is the largest body of pollution-free water in the city and has evolved into a sanctuary for migratory birds. It will be the centerpiece of a $16.7 million, 16,000-square-foot educational facility called The Discovery Center. The Center will be the first of its kind in the nation and provide outdoor education to children throughout the region.
According to Katie Newsom Pastuszek, executive director of the Philadelphia Outward Bound School, the groups involved have been “fundraising quietly” to gather the necessary grants and donations needed to help build the Center. With a planned opening in 2017, The Discovery Center will feature an indoor climbing wall, outdoor high ropes course, zip line, canoe launch, bird-watching platforms, indoor and outdoor classrooms, and other amenities. The final designs require permitting and approval by the city.
“This is like our backyard…this park is our business and we are very excited about this,” said Tonetta Graham, president of the Strawberry Mansion Community Development Corporation.
Mayor Michael Nutter said he believes the newly opened land and Discovery Center, once built, will be another asset that the residents of the city “can brag on” and will help teach school children some vital educational experiences that will be “one of the most incredible experiences of their lives.”