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Wilderness Park Master Plan Update

The City of Lincoln, Parks and Recreation Department, is conducting an update of the Wilderness Park Master Plan to review improvements to the user experience elements. During this process we will be seeking guidance from the Wilderness Park Master Plan Working Group as well as the general public. The primary goal of this project is the development of an annotated map to serve as a master plan for Wilderness Park that identifies user experience amenities and guides future improvements associated with the park’s trails, trail heads, wayfinding signage, parking lots, etc. To be included on a mailing list for regular updates, please send an email to

User Experience Master Plan Goals

The 2020 User Experience Master Plan takes into consideration the plans of the past in the light of today’s conditions and the desires expressed by the users of Wilderness Park.

Over the years there have been several planning efforts, including two master plans for the park. These plans can be reviewed in the Background Information section below. Although the overall vision of Wilderness Park as an oasis of natural experience for visitors has not changed, the plans have evolved quite a bit since the original 1972 Master Plan.

While the original plan suggested more actively managed trails, a plant conservatory, research areas, a nature center, roadways crossing through some areas, and other improvements that would result in a more traditional park setting, the current desire is for a park that provides a wilderness experience for visitors, allowing them to pass through natural space and feel a connection with the plants and animals they encounter. There has also been much change since the 2000 master plan which was completed while several of the rail corridors were still active, development was inching up to the edge of the park, and a new roadway connection along the Yankee Hill Rd alignment was being actively considered. Since then, the Union Pacific rail line has become the Jamaica North Trail, several buffering properties have been either purchased or had conservation easements placed upon them, and plans for a Yankee Hill Road connection west to Highway 77 have been abandoned. All of these changes provide an opportunity to review the plans for improvements in Wilderness Park and develop a list of projects that will provide amenities that preserve the feeling of Wilderness and encourage more people to enjoy it.

The plan itself is meant to address the “user experience” in the park – the experience of the park visitor as they enter the park, what they see as they move through the park, the trails, signage, and stream crossings they encounter. The goals below are meant to reflect input received through several recent outreach efforts and to be general and overarching in nature. The improvements that result from this effort are meant to be accomplished over a period of time, some longer than others, and as funding is available both to construct them and to maintain them into the future.

This is probably the longest standing goal for Wilderness Park. Wilderness Park is different from most of the other parks in Lincoln and Lancaster County in that it is mostly left to management by natural processes and the trailheads and trails and a couple other small areas are the only places where active management occurs. While most of Wilderness Park is not true “wilderness”, there are many areas with unique and important habitat, and the park serves as a reservoir for many species that may not otherwise be able to thrive in an urban environment. This goal also reflects the desires expressed by participants in recent public outreach efforts who strongly favored the protection of the natural environment, minimization of any signage or other “man-made” improvements, keeping the trails within the park rather than diverting to adjacent roads or trails, and reducing the views and sounds of nearby urban uses as much as possible.

The trail was originally developed with hiking and horse trails, with bike trails being added later as biking became more popular in the community. While the trails are designated by user, the signage and designation is not always adhered to by all users. However, as one representative on the Working Group once said (paraphrasing) “people don’t stray onto other trails because they’re bad people and they want to break the rules. They do it because they love Wilderness Park and they want to be able to experience more of it.” Carefully examining the trails to see where opportunities might exist to expand user options and thinking about the impacts, both to comfort and safety, but also to any needed improvements to accommodate users, may reveal opportunities to expand the miles of trail open to each user group, while not actually building significant new miles of trails. This goal is reflected in such recent support for consideration of “all-user” trails in some or all of the park, making more connections between trails, maintaining the north/south connectivity of the trail system, and making sure the natural environment is impacted as little as possible with new projects.

“Sustainability” has many different implications, but at its core it’s the consideration of the long-term implications of a decision. What will the consequences be for the natural environment? Is the location one where it can be reasonably expected to remain for the long term? Is the improvement one that can be maintained with the resources available? In Wilderness Park, these decisions must be made within a constantly shifting natural environment. Protection of natural was strongly support in several different public input activities, and ongoing utility and maintenance of features is important to both users and the City.

Signage in Wilderness Park should be different from signage in other parks or along other trails. In order to fulfill the first Goal of providing a Wilderness experience, signage should be minimal and unobtrusive, but there is still a need to provide some information to users within the park. Signage can also help to increase awareness and educate visitors to the park on the history, importance, and inhabitants of Wilderness Park. Signage can assist in the navigation of the park and provide locational information should emergency services be required. Signage is one of the most frequently mentioned improvements desired in the park.

Trailheads are an opportunity to orient park visitors to the space, deliver important information and provide the “first impression” of the park. Trailheads that are clean, well surfaced, and have typical amenities such as trash cans, signage, seating, mounting blocks and hitching posts set visitors off on their journey on the right foot. Trailheads should also feel safe and have information such as contacts in case of emergency or concerns. In some cases trailheads may be able to have enhancements such as space for seasonal porta-potties, grills, picnic tables and other facilities. .


This 22-minute presentation will help to introduce the purpose of the User Experience Master Plan and provide information on some of the big topics being discussed.

Wilderness Park Multi-Use Trail Survey

Multi-Use Trails are trails which allow different users to use the same pathway. They are constructed and maintained to accommodate the “highest use”, in the case of Wilderness Park, this would be horseback riders. Multi-use trails rely on users being aware of their surroundings and following proper trail etiquette in order to provide a positive trail experience for all trail users.

Take the two minute survey.

Interactive Map

Click to submit observation.

Click here to view others comments

    Please share your observations of Wilderness Park. Share locations and descriptions of places you think are special, or where an improvement could be used. Share a photo if you have one! We will use this information to compile a list of potential future projects for your review later in the project.

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Wilderness Park Stream Crossings

The community has been invited to provide input on priorities for repair/replacement of stream crossings. Parks and Recreation staff will use the new guidelines to evaluate options for future stream crossings with an emphasis on maintaining connectivity of trails throughout the seven-mile-long park. Stream crossing structures in Wilderness Park include small pedestrian bridges, larger multi-use bridges and low water crossings. All of the bridges are regularly inspected for safety, and structures deemed unsafe are closed until it is determined whether to repair, remove or replace them.

November 21st, 2019
6:30 to 8 p.m.
Woods Park Place, 3131 "O" St., lower level training center

January 23, 2020
6:30 to 8 p.m.
Woods Park Place, 3131 "O" St., lower level training center

2017 Strategic Plan

Materials and Downloads

Final Report

April 19

March 22

March 8

February 22

Contact Sara Hartzell, or 402-441-0000, with any questions.

Wilderness Park Master Plan Working Group:

  • Adam Hintz
  • Anna Wishart
  • Chris Heinrich
  • Dan King
  • Jim Crook
  • Joeth Zucco
  • Kat Baum
  • Matt Gersib
  • Rosina Paolini
  • Susan Larson-Rodenburg