“Like the water of a fountain flowing endlessly on, the work of a teacher affects eternity.” – Quote on a commemorative plaque at Cascade Fountain, South 27th Street and Capitol Parkway
When an engineering study determined that extensive repairs to the Bicentennial Cascade Fountain would cost nearly $1 million, Lincoln Parks Foundation launched a survey last summer to seek the community’s guidance on its possible refurbishment.
“We heard loud and clear that people love Cascade Fountain and want to keep it,” said Maggie Stuckey, executive director of the Lincoln Parks Foundation. “Nearly 7,600 individuals took the survey, surpassing all our expectations. We are excited to lead the effort to refurbish the fountain and to improve the area.”
Cascade Fountain, also known as “Teachers Fountain,” is the result of a 1973 effort by the Lincoln Area Retired Teachers Association (now known as the Lincoln Area Retired School Personnel Association) to commemorate the nation’s Bicentennial in 1976 and make a lasting and meaningful contribution to Lincoln.
“The Lincoln Area Retired Teachers Association wanted to give a gift to the community that communicated the message and the belief that learning and education is eternal. Learning goes on always, every day,” said Bob Bussman, a retired educator for Lincoln Public Schools.
In collaboration with the Lincoln Parks and Recreation Department, money was raised to build a fountain on the southeast corner of South 27th Street and Capitol Parkway in the style of well-known landscape architect Lawrence Halprin. For five years, multiple fundraising appeals and activities took place, inspiring teachers and residents across Nebraska to donate funds for this milestone project.
In the summer of 1978, Bicentennial Cascade Fountain was completed and dedicated to all Nebraska retired teachers. It quickly became a Lincoln icon.
“The fountain has been enjoyed for more than 40 years. It’s appeared on postcards, calendars, and in marketing materials for the city,” Stuckey said. “It became a well-loved backdrop for photos and events. Visitors to Lincoln often include the fountain on their list of destinations while in town. Even commuters enjoy moments of peace at the street intersection thanks to views of the fountain through their car windows.”
Unfortunately, over time the fountain’s condition has deteriorated. Serious maintenance issues exist, and outdated electrical and mechanical systems need to be replaced. When the fountain was originally built, the idea of an endowment was not part of the strategy for the Parks and Recreation Department. It was a time when fundraising meant meeting only actual construction costs, not the long-term and inevitable repair and replacement expenses.
So earlier this year, Lincoln Parks Foundation embarked on $1.6 million campaign to provide for the rehabilitation and refurbishment of the fountain and for related site improvements, as well as for an endowment for ongoing repair and replacement to sustain Cascade Fountain and surrounding grounds in the future.
Project components include:
• Update and repair fountain infrastructure;
• New plaza with seating and picnic areas;
• Respite area for quiet reflection;
• Greater access to trails and area amenities;
• Event space for parties, community gatherings, outdoor weddings;
• Permanent donor recognition;
• Educator recognition opportunities;
• New fountain and site lighting; and
• Improved landscaping.
In addition to restoring the fountain, the project includes creating a beautiful destination in the Antelope Park Triangle. Individuals and families can come spend the day and delight in the spectacular water feature of Cascade Fountain; enjoy a picnic on the sprawling, landscaped grounds; take in the breathtaking beauty of the nationally acclaimed Sunken Gardens, Rotary Strolling Garden and Hamann Rose Garden; and engage with the unique animals and habitats at Lincoln Children’s Zoo.
The campaign received a big boost in December, when the Lincoln Parks Foundation Board of Directors voted to distribute $500,000 from the Community Challenge Grant Fund to Cascade Fountain. The Fund, which was started at the Foundation by the City of Lincoln in October 2018, provides seed funding for major parks repair and replacement projects.
Lincoln Parks Foundation is collaborating with education organizations in Nebraska including the Nebraska Association of Retired School Personnel (NARSP), Lincoln Area Retired School Personnel (LARSP), Nebraska State Education Association-Retired, Lincoln Education Association, Lincoln Public Schools Foundation and Nebraska Council of School Administrators, which have provided input and will help get the word out to their constituencies.
“Cascade Fountain has stood as a symbol of beauty and achievement over the years and reflects what happens when a community comes together for the greater good,” Bussman said. “We built this fountain to honor retired teachers, and it does. It also is part of the larger conversation about leaving the world a better place than when we found it. We are willing to make sure that continues.”
Lincoln Parks Foundation has a successful track record of private-public partnerships with the Parks and Recreation Department. Since 2002, it has collaborated with volunteer leaders and private donors to provide more than $22 million for parks and recreation projects that improve Lincoln’s quality of life and also serve as an economic driver for the city.
“We want to restore Cascade Fountain and improve the surrounding plaza area for everyone and future generations to enjoy,” Stuckey said. “We need private support to bring it back to its former glory and to add popular amenities to the area.”
Lincoln Parks Foundation is a private 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that enlists the help of individuals, corporate donors and other charitable foundations to help sustain and improve our community parks and recreation system so that all can enjoy it. Naming and teacher recognition opportunities are available for this campaign. For more information about the Cascade Fountain project, contact Stuckey at 402-441-8258 or go to LincolnParks.org/Cascade.