As I looked about me I felt that the grass was the country, as the water is the sea. The red of the grass made all the great prairie the color of wine-stains, or of certain seaweeds when they are first washed up. And there was so much motion in it; the whole country seemed, somehow, to be running. — Willa Cather, "My Antonia."
The vision of a tallgrass prairie corridor that connects Pioneers Park, Conestoga Lake and Spring Creek Prairie near Denton captures the imagination.
It would offer a place for city dwellers to pause under the open sky, feel the breeze against their cheeks and watch the wind push the grasses in waves across the horizon.
The prairie corridor would allow people to reconnect with the natural world and remind themselves of their place in the web of life.
The six-mile prairie corridor would deepen understanding of pioneer homesteaders and remind us of how the land looked for centuries before the sodbusters arrived.
As described in the proposed 2040 Comprehensive Plan, the corridor would encompass 2,000 acres of native prairie and "two premier prairie education centers — Pioneers Park Nature Center and Spring Creek Prairie Audubon Center."
Leading the effort are the city of Lincoln's Parks and Recreation Department and Planning Department. The Lower Platte South Natural Resource District earlier this month voted to become a partner in the project to contribute $5,000 for a study to help determine the corridor and identify resources.
Leaders are calling the corridor the Haines Branch prairie greenway, taking the name from Haines Branch Creek, a tributary of Salt Creek, located in Pioneers Park.
It would be part of the larger Salt Valley Greenway, a network of open spaces, trails, lakes, streams and wetlands in and around Lincoln. Wilderness Park and parts of Salt Creek already are part of the greenway.
Among the practical benefits of the approach is managing the watershed to reduce the possibility of flood damage by preserving the open flood plain.
An important goal identified in the proposed Comprehensive Plan calls for "organizational structure for coordination of open space conservation activities between public agencies and private organizations."
The new plan also suggests that community leaders "encourage development of a private land trust organization, or expand the role of an existing organization to include land trust activities in Lancaster County.
Because major elements of the proposed corridor already are in place, linking them together seems daunting, but not impossible.
If the effort to establish the Haines Branch prairie greenway can be sustained over time — perhaps decades -- the inspiring vision could become reality.