Support the Pioneers Park Nature Center!
Without citizen input the Nature Center could close
Dave Titterington / Wild Bird Habitat Stores
“All that’s good is wild and free” – Henry David Thoreau
For nearly 50 years the Pioneers Park Nature Center has been a part of the Lincoln landscape. Although it has gone through various changes in the past half century, the Nature Center has evolved into a facility where life on the Central Great Plains is interpreted. From the Native Tribes that inhabited these North American Grasslands, to the pioneers that traveled across it, the settlers that called it home and where biologists today continue to pry into its secrets, it is a large part of our heritage. Now the tallgrass prairies such as what’s found at the Nature Center have become one of the most endanger ecosystems on the continent and may very well become one of the few remaining native prairie tracks in Eastern Nebraska along with those under conservation easements by Wachiska Audubon and Audubon Nebraska.
But the Pioneers Park Nature Center is more than just a 600 acre microcosm of the diverse habitats of Eastern Nebraska. It is a place where young and old can wander 8 miles of trails. View exhibits of native raptors and other animal species. Sit and relax in the herb garden enjoying the 150 different varieties of herbs or the prairie garden with 175 species of prairie forbs and grasses. Or enjoy the bird garden to view some of the 250 bird species on the Nature Center’s checklist. My personal favorite is walking through the wetlands and woods identifying the many bird species that migrate through or nest at the Nature Center, or wander through the miles of tallgrass prairie trying to imagine the tenacity of our ancestors who enjoyed its bounty along with braving its many perils.
Yet the Pioneers Park Nature Center is much more than just a peaceful wildlife sanctuary and image of our past. It is where 226 volunteers donated almost 1600 hours in 2010. Where every year 13,000 school children combine classroom curriculum with an actual hands-on nature experience on interpretive nature hikes led by one of the Nature Centers Teacher / Naturalists. I meet many young parents today that remember taking school hikes at the Nature Center who have children that are enjoying that same experience today.
The newly created “Prairie Emersion” hikes funded by grants secured by the Lincoln Public Schools offers all LPS 4th graders a five hour introduction to life on the prairie as it once was. It is where kids learn the difference between the Midwest to our east and the Great Plains where they live.
And yet the Pioneers Park Nature Center offers even more to the quality of life in Lincoln through hundreds of outreach programs to youth and adults. Nature camps for kids from 5 to 17 years of age. One of the most popular pre-schools in Lincoln where nature is the theme along with numerous parent / child programs for pre kindergarten children.
The Pioneers Park Nature Center offers the community of Lincoln a place to hold birthday parties, go on hayrack rides, attend classes and programs for adults and children, and take bird walks. There is an auditorium for business meetings and seminars with full media and kitchen services that overlooks a peaceful pond where elk and other wildlife roam.
More than 200,000 people drive the Nature Center’s loop annually with another 50,000 visitors enjoying the exhibits and hands on activities in the Prairie Center and Chet Ager buildings. An additional 30,000 people participate in Nature Center classes and programs. It is a part of Lincoln that adds to the quality of life that has made our community one of the top ranked cities in the country. It is Lincoln’s big wild backyard where families and children can play outdoors and enjoy nature. Now the citizens of Lincoln are being asked if we want our city government to continue funding the Pioneers Park Nature Center or close it.
I have been fortunate to be a teacher/naturalist and 14 year staff member of the Pioneers Park Nature Center although now my time is volunteered. Over the past 17 years the Wild Bird Habitat Stores have supported the Nature Center donating birding products while sponsoring numerous programs, classes, and projects. The latest project was the Turkey Vulture exhibit that the staff from Wild Bird Habitat Store constructed cost sharing the materials with Todd Rivers of Rivers Metal Products and Lincoln City Parks. There are plenty of opportunities for other area businesses to assist the Pioneers Park Nature Center funding and sponsoring projects and programs. And there is always a need for volunteers and part seasonal time help.
The Nature Center provides a valuable community service for our families and kids. It provides a valuable service to Lincoln by raising that quality of life we have come to cherish. From adults to kids, school children to pre-schoolers, the Pioneers Park Nature Center is a place where people can get outdoors, play outdoors, and experience the natural world around us.
The Wild Bird Habitat Stores encourages everyone to contact Mayor Chris Buetler or your city council representative to show your support for the Nature Center. Please call, e-mail, or send letters to the Mayor’s office in support of continued funding for Lincoln’s Pioneers Park Nature Center: Phone 402-441-7511 / Fax 402-441-7120 / E-Mail: , US Mail: Chris Beutler – 555 South 10th St., Suite 301- Lincoln, NE 68508