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Haines Branch prairie corridor would connect two nature centers

Haines Branch prairie corridor would connect two nature centers

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Haines Branch, a tributary of Salt Creek, could be transformed into a tallgrass prairie corridor. 

The Parks and Recreation Department and the Planning Department envision a six-mile-long corridor -- possibly with a recreational trail -- that would connect Pioneers Park, Conestoga Lake and Spring Creek Prairie near Denton -- all in the southwest part of Lancaster County.

"These connections would form a corridor encompassing over 2,000 acres of native prairie and two premier prairie education centers -- Pioneers Park Nature Center and Spring Creek Prairie Audubon Center," states the 2040 comprehensive plan, a map for the city and county's future growth.

The Haines Branch prairie corridor is part of a bigger vision called the Salt Valley Greenway -- a ring of open spaces, parks, trails, lakes, streams and wetlands that would form a circle in and around Lincoln. Wilderness Park and the north and west sections of Salt Creek are part of the greenway already.

Terry Genrich, natural resources and greenways manager for the Parks and Recreation Department, said the two departments are leading an effort to put together partnerships and seek funds to develop a master plan to implement the Salt Valley Greenway "with an emphasis on the prairie corridor along Haines Branch."

The Lower Platte South Natural Resources District Board of Directors voted Wednesday to become a partner and to contribute $5,000.

"It's worth looking into," NRD assistant manager Paul Zillig said in an interview before the 17-3 vote. Directors Russell Barger, Roger Gaebel and Greg Osborn voted no.

Zillig said both Pioneers Park and Spring Creek Prairie are "neat places," and the study will help determine a corridor and identify resources.

Genrich said the two departments also plan to seek financial help from the Cooper Foundation and the Lincoln Community Foundation.

"We're asking for some initial start-up money to help fund the master plan," he said.

If they get the necessary funds, the study could begin next spring, Genrich said.

"After the study is done, we will determine other sources of funding to start implementing the master plan," Genrich said.

Just how wide the prairie corridor would be is unknown. That's one of the things the study will help determine. Easements would be obtained from willing property owners to create the corridor.

"Some areas may be wider than others based on resources," Genrich said.

Past surveys show that there is public support for these types of projects, Genrich said.

"A prairie corridor would promote the enhancement and preservation of one of Southeast Nebraska's most valuable resources, which is the tallgrass prairie," he said.

Reach Algis J. Laukaitis at 402-473-7243 or alaukaitis@journalstar.com.

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