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Earth Day

A popular destination for bikers, the Jayne Snyder Trails Center at Union Plaza will soon include a farm-to-table cafe.

A café geared to bicyclists and other trail users is in the works for the Jayne Snyder Trails Center at Union Plaza.

Doug and Krista Dittman bought 2,100 square feet of space on the first floor of the center at 21st and Q streets this month and want to turn it into an eatery featuring locally grown produce and dairy products.

The purchase price was $150,000, according to real estate records.

Most of the café's food would come from the couple's 240-acre farm about 15 miles northwest of downtown. Part of their operation includes a beginning farmer program for people who want to learn about organic farming.

"It made sense for us to look for a space in town where we could market our own farm products and get a better price for our beginning farmers," Doug Dittman said.

Branched Oak Farm is certified organic, but the couple plans to support other locally grown food operations in the area by inviting them to sell their products at the café.

"It will be a farm-to-table café," Doug Dittman said. "Our goal is to have 60 percent (grown) locally."

The couple envisions bicyclists and walkers stopping by for picnic-style meals, including local cheese and milk products. They also may sell beer and wine, and there's talk about starting a farmers market and a bike-loaner program.

The Dittmans plan to open the café by the summer and are looking for someone interested in locally grown foods and the bicycling community to run the business, he said.

"We really want to make it a destination," Doug Dittman said. "What really intrigues and draws me to this project is the community aspect because of the connected trails center. It's a beautiful setting with the trails and Antelope Creek."

The trails center is named after Jayne Snyder, a former City Councilwoman who owned a physical therapy business and was an avid runner and trails supporter. She died in 2011.

Nicknamed "The Jayne," the center opened in 2012 and was designed to serve as a hub for many of the city's trails that connect nearby. It was built with donations from the Great Plains Trails Network and serves as a place for public gatherings, private receptions and festivals.

The Lincoln Parks and Recreation Department was involved in construction and management of the center, said Terry Genrich, the department's natural resources and greenways manager.

Genrich said the city owns the land and one of three units in the complex. The Community Health Endowment of Lincoln and the Dittmans own the other two.

Great Plains members and other trail enthusiasts have long wanted some type of restaurant at that location.

"It has been a while in coming," said trails network president Karen Griffin.

She credited the Nebraska Trails Foundation and its president, David Schmidt, for doing the leg work in attracting a buyer.

Genrich said the Dittmans bought the unit from the foundation, which has agreed to turn proceeds from the sale over to the city for future trail projects.

"We definitely want to promote it … as a place where the community can come together," Griffin said. "Being that it’s a hub for the trails network, it is a fantastic place for people to gather and head out for runs, walks and bike rides on the trails."

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7243 or alaukaitis@journalstar.com.

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