Wow. What a year. As we looked back at the beginning of last year, we remembered writing our column in January and February, not knowing what was heading toward us the very next month that would derail and postpone not only our plans, but the whole world’s.

So we did what everyone else did: We paused. We figured out a way through. We pivoted.

And now we’re moving forward.

For us, it’s still all about our two favorite words: heritage and habitat. The Nature Alliance is committed to its mission of preserving and educating about Gettysburg’s cultural (heritage) and natural (habitat) resources. As the year went on, we realized that it was a good time to reset, refocus and recommit ourselves to the goals we set out for ourselves in 2020.

We continue to focus on two initiatives that will drive our actions in 2021:

• Operating the Gettysburg Heritage Center, located at 297 Steinwehr Avenue, which serves as a visitor and education hub and features a museum, orientation, tours, visitor information, a gift shop and bookstore and special events. We are proud that people can visit and learn about Gettysburg’s civilians and natural resources, like trees. Did you know that we have a remnant of an actual witness tree in the museum? And that visitors can crawl through it? It’s a tactile exhibit of which we are proud, connecting visitors to the natural resources of this special place.

The exhibit also features information on how trees’ ages are determined. We are in the process of examining exhibit space to explore changes that will more greatly focus on the connection with heritage and habitat, and we have some exciting ideas that will be taking shape in the coming months.

• Finishing construction on the learning barn near the historic Sachs Bridge, next to the Nature Alliance’s existing learning orchard. Construction was delayed a great deal due to the pandemic, but we are pleased to report we are back on track. If you are at the bridge, look to the field to the west, and you will see the barn—it was designed to blend in and not detract from its bucolic surroundings. In the coming months, we will be announcing special projects and educational and volunteer opportunities near the historic bridge, as we once again continue to build upon the importance of both heritage and habitat.

• Building partnerships. We are exciting to be talking about our plans with several partners and will continue to work together where possible. We are honored to work with wonderful neighbors and friends at the National Park Service, the American Chestnut Foundation, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the Strawberry Hill Foundation.

• Building on and expanding educational programming at the Gettysburg Heritage Center and beyond to include “habitat” programming—starting with topics about how the habitat affected Gettysburg’s heritage and helping people understand why it is so important to preserve that habitat as we move forward.

Our compelling combination of heritage and habitat will help the community and its thousands of visitors experience and learn about our environment (no matter where they may live!) in a setting like no other.

As we move into a year still filled with much uncertainty, we invite everyone to get outside in your community. Look around. Explore. Remember. Think about YOUR individual heritage and our collective heritage. Where is your family from? Why do you live where you do? How have you been shaped by your heritage? And think about YOUR individual habitat and our collective habitat. Where does your water come from? How are the trees helping us breathe clean air?

For more information, visit us at visit or You also can send an email to

Dru Anne Neil is president of the Gettysburg Nature Alliance.

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