Protecting the Hay Creek Watershed and the drinking water source for about 2,000 customers of the Birdsboro Municipal Authority is the primary focus of the 1,800 acres that make up Birdsboro Waters . The area is protected with USDA Forest Service Forest Legacy Program easement through the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. But it does have some recreational opportunities.
History: Birdsboro Waters was permanently preserved in 2007 through the conservation easement held by the state and purchased from the Birdsboro Municipal Authority using contributions from multiple public and nonprofit funding partners. That same year the state abandoned 2 miles of Route 82, which divides the preserved area with a section to the west and one to the east.
In 1987, the state closed about 2 miles of Route 82 in Robeson Township after a flood washed out part of the road and weakened three bridges over Hay Creek. Since then, people have used the closed part of the road for jogging, horseback riding and dog walking. (See visitor tips below.)
County property records show the municipal authority acquired the John Dyer Quarry in 1979.
The area is part of the Hopewell Big Woods, the last large, unbroken forest left in southeastern Pennsylvania.
Key features: The most well-known aspect of Birdsboro Waters outside of Berks County is organized rock climbing in an inactive quarry, but the area is also frequented by horse riders, hikers and mountain bikers. The Hay Creek, which runs through the center of Birdsboro Waters, is an Exceptional Value Stream and Trout Stocked Fishery. The Horse-Shoe Trail traverses the lower portion of the preserve. If you have maps of the Horse-Shoe Trail, the Birdsboro Waters is on trail map #3.
At Birdsboro Waters, there is the beautiful Stinson Run Reservoir. In the section east of Old Route 82, there is the Birdsboro Reservoir with a hiking loop trail. AllTrails.com has a full description of the trail at https://bit.ly/2Osq4af.
Trailforks.com rates the gravel and mountain trails moderate to difficult for bikers. They vary in length from 5 to 37 miles.
Near the preserve is Rustic Park, at 1314 Haycreek Road, a favorite of families. You should be aware that you can't access the preserve from the park.
Wildlife: This area is a good place to observe a variety of birds. Birdsboro Waters/Hay Creek is listed as a hotspot on e-bird. More than 130 species have been observed there. Some birds spotted in this spring include hooded merganser, red-tailed hawk, sharp-shinned hawk, Louisiana water thrush, dark-eyed junco and brown-headed cowbird. Here is a link to e-bird sightings: https://ebird.org/hotspot/L627754,
Visitors should keep in mind that the easement to the property allows hunting, and the South Birdsboro Archery Rod and Gun Club is active nearby.
Predominant vegetation: Approximately 70% of the land along the Hay Creek corridor is in deciduous forest, according to the Department of Conservation and Resources. The hardwood forests regenerated after being harvested in the 18th and early 19th centuries to supply the charcoal requirements of the colonial iron industry. This is particularly true along the first and second order tributaries. These tributaries make up the majority of stream length and total corridor area in the watershed. A Natural Heritage Inventory notes the area has the right conditions for bog bluegrass, a globally vulnerable plant species that is also threatened in Pennsylvania.
Best time to go: The area is open to the public from dawn to dusk. Weekends are typically busier, but the area is not crowded.
Visitor tip: The better access to Birdsboro Waters is from Cocalico Road. The Old Route 82 entrance is on a graffiti-covered abandoned road, and the graffiti is not family-friendly. Birdsboro Municipal Authority Manager Kelly Yanos stressed that graffiti is not allowed or encouraged, and the authority will paint over it. Last year, Birdsboro Police Department through an agreement with Robeson Township has started to patrol the area. Offenders have been warned and in some cases have had to make restitution.
Pets are allowed if they are kept under control and attended. There are no trash receptacles in the watershed, so be prepared to pack out what you bring in. No camping or camp fires are permitted. Swimming in any reservoir is prohibited. The Watershed is under video surveillance, according to its regulations published last year.
Best advice: Take your time if it's your first visit. Yanos said that cellphone service is spotty in the preserve, and you can easily get lost. Appreciate the pristine beauty and take care of it by making sure you don't leave any waste.
"It's just breathtaking in some spots," Yanos said.
Nancy Kauffman, a longtime member of the Hay Creek Watershed Association, said the land is primarily for protecting the watershed and passive recreation.
"It is a balancing act as we support outdoor activities for people to enjoy but at the same time recognize the importance of being environmentally smart," Kauffman said in an email.