In just a few months, residents will be able to check out a newly improved Wrightsville-area preservation center.

Construction at the John & Kathryn Zimmerman Center for Heritage in Lower Windsor Township is expected to wrap up soon, said Mark Platts, president of the Susquehanna Gateway Heritage Area, which operates the center, with a possible opening to the public as early as July.

"This is exciting to see it happen," Platts said of the construction work. "It's still touch and go when construction will be done."

Work at the 1706 Long Level Road center got under way in August and included the construction of a pavilion that abuts and overlooks the Susquehanna River, a boardwalk along the river and a canoe/kayak landing area.

Work continues on the Zimmerman Center for Heritage Enhancement Project at the center along Long Level Tuesday, May 27, 2014. The Susquehanna Gateway
Work continues on the Zimmerman Center for Heritage Enhancement Project at the center along Long Level Tuesday, May 27, 2014. The Susquehanna Gateway Heritage Area is adding the pavilion, floating dock, canoe/kayak launch, interpretive panels and accessible pathways to its river front Dritt Mansion property to encourage a land-to-water connection. BILL

Outdoors hub: Once open, the center, situated on less than three acres of land, will serve as a "land to water bridge," Platts said, allowing boaters on the river access to the center and nearby hiking trails.

"It's turning what was kind of a quiet place into a tiny park," he said.

Susquehanna Gateway has for about the past nine years been based in a historic building, donated by John and Kathryn Zimmerman in 2007 and known as the Dritt Mansion, on the property.

The center is positioned between the river and the Native Lands County Park, an unfinished 187-acre property that can be accessed only by trail heads, one of which is located in the Zimmerman parking lot.


The park includes the last known village of the Susquehannocks, who lived along the river and were believed to have been driven into Maryland by the Seneca around 1680.

Amenities: Despite the harsh weather, construction crews kept working through the winter, and with the work already taking shape, Platts said he's impressed.

In the coming weeks, they will position a floating dock in the river. Other enhanced amenities include a rain garden, a river view terrace and a wetlands/native plants garden.

The pavilion, which opens up looking out over the river, boasts a modern design but was built using materials similar to what was used in the mansion, which was built sometime in the early 1740s, he said.

"We wanted to make sure to do the right thing with it," Platts said. "It all ties together."

Funding: The project is being funded through a mix of private and public money, including a $1.1 million grant from the Federal Highway Administration for construction of visitor facilities, $127,000 from the National Park Service, $110,000 from the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and $75,000 from the state Fish and Boat Commission.

Numerous private donors have sponsored some of the newly added features. That means the center will be able to maintain the amenities for years to come, Platts said.

Joe Deerin, a Susquehanna Gateway Heritage Trust board member, said he marveled at the project as he was on the river on Memorial Day.

"This will be a great addition to the existing facilities available to the public along the Susquehanna River," he said.

— Reach Greg Gross at