Primary partners with the Prairie Corridor on Haines Branch project announced May 14 that $7 million, or nearly one-third of the overall goal, had been secured for the 10-mile-long tallgrass prairie passage and trail between Pioneers Park Nature Center and Spring Creek Audubon Center. That total includes a recent grant from the Nebraska Environmental Trust (NET) of $900,000 and nearly $1.3 million in grants, matching funds and private donations raised since August 2018.
The announcement was made prior to a free outdoor public celebration held at Pioneers Park Nature Center, during which nearly 300 people of all ages enjoyed prairie activities, including a tour of the Prairie Corridor Trail using Pedalpushers pedi-cabs and BikeLNK bicycles, exploring the Hudson Cabin and Heritage, viewing the prairie from a drone and a scavenger hunt for kids. The event also included a silent auction and food from Gelato To Go, Kitchen Sink Bakery, The Gilded Swine and Roaming Tacos.
An estimated $22 million will be needed to complete the Prairie Corridor, which is designed to build on Lincoln's trail system, promote ecotourism, support environmental education and preserve tallgrass prairie. Primary partners include the City of Lincoln, Lower Platte South Natural Resources District (LPSNRD), Spring Creek Prairie Audubon Center and Lincoln Parks Foundation.
"Our fundraising success has allowed us to add more than 950 additional acres to the 4,500 acres along the Corridor that were already protected through conservation easements or public ownership," said Maggie Stuckey, executive director of the Lincoln Parks Foundation. "We have also completed the first two segments of trail within Pioneers Park, protected more than 200 acres of virgin prairie and re-established tallgrass prairie on over 140 acres."
Once completed, the Prairie Corridor will connect Pioneers Park, Conestoga Lake State Recreation Area and Spring Creek Prairie Audubon Center. The project's timeline will depend on the voluntary participation of willing landowners. Project partners are working with landowners through a voluntary, incentive-based approach to conservation through the purchase of land or conservation easements, or by enhancing the prairie resources on their own.
Former Mayor Chris Beutler thanked the project partners for their leadership, vision and willingness to work. He said the generational project will take "persistence and passion" to complete.
"I know that we all have a great love of this place we call home, and from that, the heart to speed this project forward," Beutler said. "It has been an honor to work with such a fine group of elected officials, landowners and community volunteers who share our passion for celebrating Nebraska's heritage while, at the same time, preserving opportunities for our children and grandchildren to connect with the natural world."
Beutler also announced that he will continue working on the project as co-chair of the 16-member Prairie Corridor on Haines Branch Cabinet. He will join conservation photographer Michael Forsberg, who has been serving as chair since the Cabinet was formed in 2017. The project partners also announced two additions to the Cabinet – City Council member Jane Raybould and Michelle Paulk, vice president of Community Outreach for the Lincoln Community Foundation.