The Outdoors is Calling

by Judy Shutts


The city of Lincoln helps improve the quality of life for the whole community with parks, pools and golf courses. There are 125 parks in Lincoln and more than half are neighborhood or mini-parks.

J.J. Yost, head of planning and construction for Lincoln Parks and Recreation, said the goal for Lincoln is to have a park in every neighborhood, or within a 10-minute walk. Thus, there are parks in every part of town, many with playgrounds and picnic tables. 

“We’re fortunate to have that level of park service,” Yost said. 

Holmes Lake Park 

Holmes Lake Park surrounds Holmes Lake, a 112-acre lake located on Antelope Creek within the city of Lincoln. It is a center of activity for golf, sand volleyball, baseball, ice skating, canoeing, kayaking and fishing. Fishing enthusiasts can often be seen fishing for several kinds of bass, crappie, walleye and catfish.

There is a playground for the kids, as well as picnic tables, grills and covered gathering space. The walking path provides a picturesque view of the area. This park is home to many community events like Family Fishing Night and Water Fest. This popular spot is located in southeast Lincoln.

Pioneers Park

True to its name, Pioneers Park celebrates the prairie pioneers. Early planting began in 1929 and has been enjoyed every since. The park features tallgrass prairie, woodlands, wetlands and a stream. Since 1963 the Nature Center has served the Lincoln area as an environmental education center and wildlife sanctuary. The eastern area of the park has conifer-lined allés and naturalistic ponds. A set of sandstone columns graces the area near the duck pond. The rest of the parkland is less formal with a picnic area, winding roads and paths. The 668-acre park has eight miles hiking trails. In the winter, Pioneers Park is a favorite spot for sledding. 

Pinewood Bowl, set in the center of the park, is an outdoor theater that hosts nationally-known bands as well as a community musical theater production each summer.

The nature center and virgin prairie on the west end of the park are home to small herds of elk and bison. The Pioneers Park Nature Center is open during all the seasons for people of any age. Visitors enjoy the exhibits that interpret native wildlife and regional ecology.

Pioneers Park was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1993.

Antelope Park

Antelope Park is home to the three public gardens: The Hamann Rose Garden, the Rotary Strolling Garden and the Veterans Memorial Garden. Visitors enjoy the colorful gardens as well as the solemn beauty of the Veterans Memorial Garden. With more than twenty military monuments, the garden is a place to reflect on the sacrifices made for our freedom.

Antelope Park boasts the largest playground in Lincoln. The playground has spaces with playground equipment for kids of all ages. There are trails around the park, lots of green space, plenty of picnic tables and the Auld Pavilion for special events.

Iron Horse Park

Located in the Haymarket district in downtown Lincoln, the Bill Harris Iron Horse Park is a mini-park that offers a respite from shopping or dining. There is a climbing structure for the kids and the visitors can appreciate a unique brick mural, “The Iron Horse Legacy.” The fountain is modeled after the trackside “jerkwater” water towers used in the era of stream engines. 

Union Plaza

Union Plaza is a six-acre urban park in Antelope Valley, close to the downtown and university. The park stretches along Antelope creek for three blocks and is part of the Antelope Valley floodway. Its Plaza and the Jayne Snyder Trails Center serve as a hub for cyclists and walkers. 

Kids can enjoy the climbing structure and look for the animal sculptures hidden around the Plaza. The park also has four water features and a festival space.

“There are lots of educational opportunities in the Union Plaza park,” Yost said. Several kiosks and signs along the pathways educate the public about capturing and using rainwater, the use of native plants and species of trees that thrive in the area. 

A focal point in the Plaza is a 15-foot tall sculpture of a head, Groundwater Colossus, by New York artist James Tyler. The head is a personification of the Ogallala Aquifer, Nebraska’s vital natural resource.

Antelope Creek and the landscaped areas make Union Plaza a pleasant place for visitors to rest
and recharge. 

The Sunken Gardens

For a spectacular display of both perennial and annual flowers visit the The Sunken Gardens at 27th and Capital Parkway. See page 34 for more information and photos.

Trago Park

Lincoln’s only public spray park, Trago Park offers a fun splash pad for kids and doubles as a playground in the off-season months. The splash pad is open Memorial Day thru Labor Day from 11 am-7 pm.

Woods Park

A new indoor tennis facility in Woods Park is open for business with six indoor courts. And 12 refinished courts add to the tennis center.

Swimming Pools

Lincoln has nine public pools in various areas to provide recreation and swimming and diving lessons all summer along. Each of the pools has a swim league and other services to help kids and adults learn to swim and stay active.

Lincoln’s main leisure pool, Star City Shores, attracts swimmers with its new slides and water play structures. The last day of each pool season, the pool is open to dogs. Last year more than 350 dogs showed up for the event.

Golf Courses

Golf is a favorite sport for many Lincolnites who value fun and fitness in a competitive environment. Lincoln has five public courses that make golf an affordable outdoor pastime. 

The Highlands Golf Course is an 18-hole public golf course designed by Jeff Brauer in 1993. It features a sweeping, rolling terrain that makes the course
a pleasure to play. The course is located in northwest Lincoln.

Mahoney Golf Course is a championship course that provides fun and exciting golf for all skill levels. The course was designed by Floyd Farley and built in 1976. It is host for golf events such as the Nebraska Open and the State Golf Championships. The Omaha World Herald called hole #8 the “Hall of Fame Hole.”

Holmes Golf Course has been a favorite of golfers for years. The rolling terrain has some great views of Holmes Lake. And clubhouse is a popular place for parties, receptions and meetings. Whether you are a beginner or avid golfer, Holmes Golf Course wants you to feel welcome.

Pioneers Golf Course is the oldest public course in Lincoln. The 18-hole course extends across a gradual hill with the clubhouse at the top. Twelve years in a row Pioneers Golf course has led all the courses in Lincoln with the number of rounds played.

The Jim Ager Memorial Golf Course is one the finest short courses of its kind in the country. Named the “Best Junior Golf Program” by Golf Digest shows the community values future golfers and beginners of all ages. Jim Ager Golf Course is a 9-hole, par 3 golf course in the heart of downtown Lincoln. The course has numerous golf learning programs for kids and adults, plus a variety of golf leagues. And FootGolf can now be played at the course. A combination of soccer and golf, this newly popular sport has rules that correspond to golf. 

Dog Runs

Lincoln has added three new dog runs for the city’s canine friends. The dog run at Oak Lake was relocated to Roper Park, in northwest Lincoln. Other new dog runs are at Mahoney Park in northeast Lincoln and Paterson Park in the southwest part of the city. These are in addition to the dog run at Rickman’s Dog Park near Holmes Lake in southeast Lincoln. 

“Those are the most-used parks in the city,” Yost said.

Yost said the city is fortunate to have the support of the Lincoln Parks Foundation to help fill in the funding gaps. Lots of small parks make the outdoors accessible for Lincolnites no matter where they live.  

“We have uniform maintenance across all parks,” Yost said. The parks truly benefit all the citizens. 


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