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Mayor's Office

2005 Media Releases

June 2, 2005
For More Information Contact:
Dave Norris, Citizen Information Center, 441-7547
Terry Genrich, Parks and Recreation Department, 441-7939

Grassland Purchase By Foundation Enhances Pioneers Park

Last week’s purchase of 230 acres west of Pioneers Park by the private, non-profit Lincoln Parks and Recreation Foundation to expand the Pioneers Park Nature Center is good news for Lincoln residents, Mayor Coleen J. Seng said today.

The acquisition by the foundation preserves a large piece of rare native prairie land for future generations and enhances one of Lincoln’s most beloved and historic parks, Mayor Seng said. Additionally, the creative partnership forged to make the purchase will allow the City to buy the land at very low cost to taxpayers.

“The community’s vision for the future of Lincoln and Lancaster County includes preservation of unique natural landscapes including rare tracts of native prairie,” Seng said. “I am so pleased that this land is being added to Lincoln’s beloved Pioneers Park. We all know that by acting to protect the environment and acquire park lands in a timely manner, we enhance the quality of life we all value in Lincoln.”

John Harris donated the land for Pioneers Park to the City in 1928. At the time, it was part of a larger prairie tract used by the Burlington Northern Railroad as a watering and feeding stop for livestock. Part of the land west of the park was used for crops in the early 1900s, but most of it never has been tilled and remains virgin prairie.

The City previously acquired 157 acres west of Pioneers Park in 1997 from David A. and Bonnie Martin and another 80 acres in 1999 from the Martin’s estate. The land purchased by the foundation last Friday was acquired from the Martin’s children; David C. Martin, Sony Lowery and Carol James.

“The Martin family has worked very closely with the City of Lincoln to establish a marvelous legacy of land conservation and parks enhancement,” Seng said. “I want to express our gratitude for their commitment and vision.”

This 230 acres was a critical piece to add to the park, Seng said. The land, which is visible from the Nature Center buildings, is the last remaining native prairie adjacent to Pioneers Park.

The Lincoln Parks and Recreation Foundation paid $5,500 per acre for the 230 acres, or about $1.26 million. The Foundation will work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to establish a grassland reserve program easement on the newly acquired property. The USDA will pay the foundation the majority of the value of the property for the easement. The Foundation then will transfer ownership of the land to the City of Lincoln at a heavily discounted rate of about $500 per acre, or about $115,000.

The City’s $115,000 will come from a combination of donations, grants and local governmental support. In the end, the cost to City of Lincoln taxpayers comes to less than $30,000.

“We thank our partners,” Seng said. “We could not have done this without the generous support of The Friends of the Pioneers Park Nature Center, the Nebraska Environmental Trust, donors to the Lincoln Cares Program, Lancaster County and the Lower Platte South Natural Resources District.”

The Pioneers Park Nature Center celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2004. The center’s mission is to provide learning opportunities about Nebraska and the Great Plains. The center is open year-round at no charge.

More than 12,000 school children participate in tours and learning activities at the Pioneers Park Nature Center each year. In the future, the land acquired last Friday will allow visitors to capture a glimpse of what early settlers experienced as they traveled through and settled in eastern Nebraska. Visitors will be invited to hike through stands of head-high prairie grasses and look out upon what will be expanded herds of grazing buffalo and elk on this land at Pioneers Park.

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