The Susquehanna Gateway Heritage Area’s offices are located at the John & Kathryn Zimmerman Center for Heritage, a historic stone home in Long Level, York County, overlooking the Susquehanna River. The organization connects people to the river and its history through exhibits, tours, and other visitor experiences, wayfinding programs, and preservation projects.

The SGHA launched an effort to enhance the Zimmerman Center in 2011. Their plans included major improvements to their waterfront site and historic building, including a water trail landing with floating dock and canoe/kayak launch, a waterfront pavilion and boardwalk, a rain garden for stormwater management, pedestrian pathways, driveway and parking improvements, interpretive displays and signage, and native landscaping.

One of the main project goals was to enhance accessibility to the Zimmerman Center. The SGHA commissioned Murphy & Dittenhafer Architects for the architectural design and construction administration of the new 600-square foot waterfront pavillion and accessibility enhancements that would connect the facilities on their property so that all visitors would be able to access them.

Murphy & Dittenhafer approached the project with their signature sensitivity, making the river and waterfront the star, with the architecture playing a supporting role. Their minimalist design approach brought a seamless elegance to the finished project. The river is visible through the pavilion from within and at a distance, and construction materials included the same native fieldstone as the low pathway walls across the road. Benches and interpretive educational panels are built in. The pavilion is part of the panoramic landscape, complementing it so gracefully that it seems as if it has always been there.

Accessibility enhancements included the design and construction of a pedestrian access pathway system from the Zimmerman Center building to the new waterside pavilion. The steep terrain - an 18-foot elevation change - made access difficult for pedestrians, and nearly impossible for those with mobility issues, to make their way around the property. Thanks to Murphy & Dittenhafer’s pathway system design, all visitors can now access the new pavilion, new floating docks, canoe and kayak landing areas, waterside nature plant gardens, and historical displays.

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