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Philadelphia’s Newest Park is Open for Bird Watching, Hiking

The Discovery Center in East Fairmount Park opened in September and includes a reservoir, hiking trail, and a rock-climbing room in its visitor center.

Philadelphia’s newest park and recreation site, The Discovery Center, is now open in East Fairmount Park for hiking, bird watching and more.

You can explore the 50-acre property on Discovery Days, the next of which is Saturday, Nov. 24. Past Discovery Days, held on the last Saturday of the month, have included indoor and outdoor activities, team games, live-bird presentations, and crafts. 

A reservoir that's the focal point of the park was a source of drinking water for the city from 1889 until 1970, when it was closed and fenced off from the public. It eventually became a lake that attracts migrating birds.

Inside the visitor center guests can find models and descriptions of some of the birds that can be spotted from a trail that will eventually circle the reservoir. The current trail includes six spots where brush was cleared to provide a view of the water and eventually a boardwalk will be installed to provide better access.

No additional structures are planned in order to preserve the natural feel for visitors and wildlife.

“You don’t want to interfere with nature too much, otherwise it’s no longer nature,” says Damien Ruffner, center manager for The Discovery Center, which is a partnership with the city, Audubon Pennsylvania and the Philadelphia Outward Bound School. The center will soon open its rock-climbing room for use by participants of the Outward Bound program.

“You could come here on a Wednesday and come back on a Friday and have a completely different experience,” said Ruffner.

The center, at 3401 Reservoir Drive, is open Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from Nov. 1 through April 30. It will also be open Wednesdays May through October. Tours around the reservoir and bird and plant walks are scheduled several times a month.

Matthew Brooks is a MetroKids intern and student at Drexel University.

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