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Organization Spotlight: Gettysburg Nature Alliance connects habitat with heritage

The Gettysburg Nature Alliance, founded in 2017 to educate about and preserve Gettysburg’s habitat and heritage, is emerging from the pandemic stronger than before.

The organization spent its pre-pandemic years sorting out the logistics that all fledgling organizations deal with. Now, with a recent $50,000 donation from New Leaf Paper Inc. and a new project underway, the Nature Alliance is ready to fulfill its “one habitat, one heritage” mission.

“We are kind of in a restart mode. We’ve talked about huge things for the future,” says President Dru Anne Neil.

The organization’s first post-pandemic project is constructing a learning barn and restoring the creek bed near Sachs Bridge. The barn will accommodate school groups and host public programs for the Nature Alliance. It will also serve as a satellite location for one of the Nature Alliance’s partners, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. Another one of its partners, the American Chestnut Foundation, will plant trees on the property.

The learning barn represents the Nature Alliance’s continued emphasis on education. The organization merged with the Heritage Center on Steinwehr Avenue in 2019, and as the headquarters of the Nature Alliance, the Heritage Center’s exhibits educate visitors about the importance of preserving both habitat and heritage.

Neil says the Nature Alliance is the only organization in the area that connects habitat with heritage. “We want people to know they can help preserve both those things. They’re not mutually exclusive,” she said.

In the era of climate change, making people aware of that connection has become increasingly important. However, getting Gettysburg’s history lovers to also love their habitat is no easy task. “Sometimes there’s a disconnect, people don’t want to hear about it.”

To bridge the gap, the organization focuses on how climate change will affect local tourism. For example, Alliance is gathering statistics on how many battlefield carriage rides and ranger programs must be canceled due to excessive heat. “We are not preaching at you, we are just giving you the facts,” she says.

Those facts will also be incorporated into the organization’s new line-up of educational public programs for the fall. One program will focus on the natural environment during and after the battle of Gettysburg. The programs will take place at both the Heritage Center and the learning barn. More information about upcoming programs will be posted on the organization’s Facebook page.

The momentum from the Sachs Bridge project will propel the Nature Alliance to accomplish a laundry list of future projects. It is looking to work with the National Park Service on a project about agriculture on the Eisenhower Farm, right behind the Sachs Bridge property.

In the Heritage Center, look out for membership opportunities and new exhibits. Other conservation projects include testing water quality, removing invasive species, helping pollinators, and building nature trails.

To accomplish these goals, the Nature Alliance will start a capital campaign this fall. And while they are still reigning in their ideas for their next project, it will surely have an impact on both habitat and heritage. “We try to focus on what we can control. It’s not going to solve the entire problem, but it’s a start, and maybe it’ll inspire other people to get involved,” says Neil.

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Molly Hoffman is a rising sophomore at Gettysburg College majoring in Environmental Studies, Public Policy, and Spanish. She is also minoring in Music and enjoys singing in choirs on campus. As the Climate Editor intern at Gettysburg Connection, she reports on local environmental stories. Her position as the Program Coordinator of the Sherfy Garden also reflects her passion for land conservation and management. She lives in Pittsburgh, PA with her parents, brother, and sister.

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