Roses and bison, public art and nature trails, playgrounds and telescopes, picnic areas and urban oases; Lincoln parks encompass all these and much more. Both residents and visitors enjoy these open spaces where they can play or just relax.
by Becky Seth
Lincoln boasts over 6,000 acres of parkland, ranging from small neighborhood or mini parks in residential areas to community and regional parks and conservancy areas. While most neighborhood parks have playground equipment, open spaces, shaded seating and walking paths, the mini-parks are a haven of plants, or perhaps a sculpture to please the eye. Nine public pools, 2 spraygrounds, 2 dog runs and five public golf courses, several large gardens and over 60 pieces of public art round out what our parks offer.
Lincoln’s four regional parks have unique features that are of interest to a broad group of people. Holmes Lake Recreation Area near 70th and Normal Boulevard, boasts a boat ramp, a lovely path around the lake and a public golf course besides the open spaces and picnic areas one would expect in a major park. The volunteer-run observatory with three telescopes for night-sky viewing is open each Saturday evening.
Pioneers Park, at West Van Dorn and South Coddington, was designed by Ernst Herminghaus and is on the National Register of Outstanding Landscape Architecture. It’s two entrances are graced by large sculptures of a bison and elk; the “Smoke Signal,” a likeness of Chief Red Cloud, stands on a hill; and columns from the old Federal Treasury Building in Washington D.C. overlook a pleasant pond. Pinewood Bowl is a venue for outdoor concerts. At the west end of the park, a 668-acre Nature Center offers two interpretive buildings, a variety of animal exhibits including bison, elk and raptors, 8 miles of hiking trails and prairie, herb, bird and children’s gardens.
Antelope Park, which stretches south from 27th and Capitol Parkway, has an extensive, accessible playground, war memorials, and a bandshell for community concerts. Within or nearby you will find the city’s most beautiful public gardens, including the Hamann Rose Garden with its many Hybrid Tea, Grandiflora and Floribunda roses, and the Sunken Gardens where the splash of a fountain and two living ponds punctuate a riot of colorful annual flowers. If the weather is inclement, little ones might enjoy time at the Indoor Playground.
Finally, the recently completed Union Plaza, north of “O” Street between 21st and 22nd Streets is a new gathering place for Lincoln. The area includes four water features, festival space, a children’s play area, outdoor amphitheater, pond plaza and artwork including the 15 foot tall giant brick head, The Colossus, by artist James Taylor. Check what events might be happening there during your visit!
The conservancy areas maintained by the Parks Department preserve unique natural attributes of the area in a mostly undeveloped state. Wilderness Park, stretching along Salt Creek, gives visitors a chance to explore a riparian ecosystem with stately bur oaks, sunny openings and wetlands with the wildlife that such an area supports. Pioneers Park Nature Center preserves over 500 acres of prairie, at its finest in the fall when the tall grasses are at the peak of their color and form. The rare saline wetlands north of Lincoln serve as a resting spot for migrating waterfowl and shorebirds during spring migration.
Civic Plaza, at 13th and P in downtown Lincoln, should be completed in the spring of 2014. This plaza and music area was designed by Jun Kaneko, and will be dominated by a 50 foot multi-colored lighted glass tower.
For more information on Lincoln’s parks, visit www.lincoln.ne.gov/city/parks/. Whatever your interests, you will find something to delight you there.