In 2002, when the Philadelphia Outward Bound School (POBS) moved into the Sedgeley Porter’s House we had two full time staff and fewer than 250 students annually. POBS’ planned to use Sedgeley Porter’s House as a base from which to grow. By 2008, POBS’ full time staff of 10 plus almost 30 seasonal field instructors were delivering programs to over 3,500 students – youth and adult. It was time to find a permanent home base for the Philadelphia Outward Bound School.

The East Park Reservoir

In January of 2009, POBS held a meeting to invite discussion about its search for a permanent home in the city. Audubon Pennsylvania attended that meeting and presented POBS with an option to consider the East Park Reservoir project – together. Inspiration happened and, for the first time, Audubon and Outward Bound – internationally recognized thought leaders in environmental stewardship and experiential education – formed a unique non-profit joint venture to bring this idea for an experiential and environmental outdoor education center – The Discovery Center – to life.

Discover Yourself In Nature

Now open to the public, The Discovery Center is the headquarters for POBS and a Philadelphia-based education center for Audubon Pennsylvania. The Discovery Center’s indoor and outdoor classrooms, exhibitions, trails, aerial teams challenge course, climbing wall and observation decks will engage participants from adjacent neighborhoods, the city, and across the region. We believe that educated and informed individuals will help preserve nature for generations to come.

Timeline of East Park Reservoir


Philadelphia hosts the World’s Fair to celebrate America’s centennial. Ten million people come to Fairmount Park to share ideas, learn new technology, and experience the beauty of our nation’s birthplace.


East Park Reservoir opens and is designed to provide clean water to more than 80% of the city’s residents. The project is an international engineering marvel and becomes the pride of Philadelphia’s world-renowned water works system.


With a continuing decline in city population, the Philadelphia Water Department abandons 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.


The west basin evolves naturally into a pristine lake. The site grows dense with vegetation and becomes a critical stopover point for migrating birds—particularly wading and diving birds—and is one of Philadelphia’s most unusual natural wildlife habitats.


A chance to ensure that this natural lake is not drained, to save and sustain the site as an important wildlife sanctuary, to reopen this miracle of nature in the heart of East Fairmount Park, and to establish a world-class educational center for environmental conservation and leadership development.

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How exciting for Philadelphia that The Discovery Center project brings the community together with the educational resources of Outward Bound and Audubon to reopen the East Park Reservoir for outdoor learning and conservation. In this beautiful natural place, young people and adults will discover their potential while exploring this wonder of  nature.
Michael Nutter, Former Mayor of Philadelphia