One of the best-kept secrets in the region is Glacier Creek Preserve, a 320-acre re-established grassland preserve northwest of Omaha in Douglas County.
In 1959, Arthur and Antoinette Allwine donated their 160-acre Glen Haven Farm to Omaha University, now the University of Nebraska-Omaha. Renamed Allwine Prairie in 1970, the preserve was seeded with native tallgrass prairie species and subsequently managed with prescribed burning.
Over the years, the preserve has become increasingly more important to the diverse needs of education and research activities in support of UNO’s community engagement mission. It is a place where groups and schools throughout the region can visit and reconnect with their natural prairie heritage. It is also a preserve that is open to visitors who can walk while surrounded by our historic tallgrass prairie landscape.
Today the preserve hosts the entire suite of native prairie and woodland plants, birds, mammals, amphibians, reptiles, and countless insect and other invertebrate species that can be observed throughout the preserve, numbers that approximate the diversity of local native prairies. Prairie life and the diversity of water and land features that characterize the preserve together provide a regional resource for education and research for a variety of disciplines — an intersection between science and humanities under an umbrella of conservation.
In addition, the preserve is one of the largest of the 1970s tallgrass prairie restorations, with the longest continuously managed set of fire and mowing research plots in North America. Because of its value to the region, as developments expand, it is important to protect this resource.
In 1999, with development approaching the preserve boundaries, the Glacier Creek Project was initiated with two purposes: to raise funds to build an on-site education and research facility, and to acquire the land around Allwine Prairie, including the upper reaches of the small Glacier Creek watershed drainage.
Glacier Creek is a small creek originating from springs in soil of glacial origin, hence the name. Protecting the watershed will ensure an ecologically viable preserve relatively isolated from surrounding development, a place where present and future generations can enjoy the feel of our natural prairie heritage.
The Barn @ Glacier Creek, the preserve’s education and research facility, was built with a donation from Barbi Hayes. At the core of the facility is a 1900s-era barn owned by Hayes’ family, which was donated and moved to the preserve in January 2012. Today, the completed facility accommodates current technology and is in constant motion with various activities.
The first purchase of surrounding land was completed in 2009 with support from the Nebraska Environmental Trust, the Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District and UNO. This purchase added 83 acres to the east and northeast of the preserve and, importantly, connected Glacier Creek to the larger Big Papillion Creek wildlife corridor. It was with this addition that the preserve was renamed the Glacier Creek Preserve.
In 2013, with another donation by Hayes and funds from the trust, NRD and UNO, an additional 76-acre piece was added, bringing the preserve to its present size.
Today, with time running out and with a willing seller, the preserve is seeking support from private donors to complete the purchase of the remaining 200 acres of the watershed. Present support from the Nebraska Environmental Trust has already been approved, but matching funds are lacking.