Eugene T. Mahoney State Park was the location for the “March for Babies” fundraiser in May. The event, organized by the March of Dimes, had over 25 sponsors, including Children’s Hospital, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Con Agra, & HDR to name a few.
Organizers have set $400,000 as their fundraising goal. Mahoney has been the site for the walk since 2004. Since then the walk has drawn more participants every year. About 5,500 people and 500 teams participated in Sunday’s walk. (in 2004 the walk had 500 people and 50 teams) Registration for the event was at the parks Open Air Pavilion and began at 9:00am.
Families began entering the park at 7:30 a.m. Keeping the cars moving was the main focus. The cars streamed into the park in a steady line until the walk began. Vehicle parkers handled more than 1,500 vehicles.
Participants gathered at the parks open air pavilion, where crispy crème donuts and coffee were available. At 10 a.m. the teams began the 3 mile trek through the paved hiking loop that follows the scenic interior of the park.
After the walk there was food and entertainment at the pavilion including carnival games, clowns, mascots, Arby’s sandwiches. A performance by the String Beans Band put smiles on children’s faces. The Life Flight helicopter flew in and landed in the parking lot providing a chance for the participants to see the helicopter up close.
The event came to a successful close and organizers were pleased with the turnout. “The park did a fantastic job with everything, you guys are awesome” said Bob Giddings, the Division Director with the March of Dimes.
Crazy Horse Memorial Highway Now Official After Two Years in the Works
Governor Heineman and dignitaries from the Lakota Sioux Tribe gathered at Fort Robinson on June 6, along with more than 150 participants for the 14th annual Crazy Horse Ride, to participate in the dedication of a portion of U.S. highway 20 as the Crazy Horse Memorial Highway. The dedicated portion of the highway spans from Fort Robinson to Hay Springs.
Crazy Horse was a highly regarded and historically significant Ogalala Sioux War Chief who participated in many battles prior to his death at Fort Robinson on Sept. 5, 1877. The dedication was officially approved by Governor Dave Heineman in November of 2010 following a two year long effort by citizens in Northwest Nebraska and a recommendation by a committee from the Nebraska Department of Roads. Only one such designation is allowed each year.
The purpose of the dedication and memorial is to honor and celebrate the Crazy Horse culture and educate people, in particular our youth and visitors to our state, about the rich heritage of the local area . View More Photos
Saturday Night Naturalist Program
This year marked the first year hosting a series of naturalist programs at Two Rivers State Park. The programs were held at the shelter in the picnic area on Saturday nights. Naturalist topics have included snakes, eagles, beavers and using our five senses to explore nature. There was a demonstration followed by a question and answer session then a craft activity relating to the topic covered. Reviews of the program have been positive and more than a few of the more than 300 visitors indicated that they hope it will continue and expand in the future. The current programs will be repeated for upcoming Saturdays at the shelter and a new program will be introduced for the end of July.
Stephanie Campbell – Two Rivers SRA
For other parks highlights and information visit the parks new facebook page at facebook.com/tworiverssra
Commissioner Closeup – Mick Jensen
In upcoming postings of the newsletter, we will be providing the opportunity to learn more about our commissioners with a profile article on each of them. The second in this series of articles is Commissioner Mick Jensen.
Commissioner Jensen grew up on a farm, the eldest of three boys. His earliest memories were of a stream that ran through their 320 acre farm, with a full complement of livestock and bringing the cows home in the evening. “It was my job to walk the pasture and bring the milk cows back to the barn at night.” Jensen recalls. But the pastures on his father’s land held untold promises of adventure and always lured the young Jensen in the direction of the creek. “I usally spent more time in that running stream and creeks than coaxing the cows home.”
Jensen’s father didn’t have a problem with the young boy dallying in the creek beds. “My dad, being a farmer, helped me understand the lay of the land and the value it held in the greater scheme of things. He had a lot of knowledge about conservation efforts and practiced what he could on our farm property in Blair.” Jensen’s father fostered habitat for pheasants, deer and a wide variety of wildlife, including a jack rabbit he and his dad would always keep track of in one of their fields.
As he grew up his dad enlisted his eldest son’s help driving the tractor to cultivate corn and other chores commonly associated with life on the farmstead. Still the young Jensen frequented the wetlands and marshes next to the land they farmed. “Red winged blackbirds always fascinated me. I can still hear their calls distinctly today and it will take me right back to when I was trudging through those marshes,” he added.
Jensen believes that those early years, growing up in a rural setting, had a big impact on who he is today. “It’s like when you raise a young animal, when they are first foaled, whelped or calved, they do what you call imprinting and what you learn in the first few hours, first few years, first few decades stays with you all your life. The work ethic is strong but there is so much more to it. You learn how to keenly observe, how to think and be creative. I can’t tell you how many times a fence had to be fixed or a piece of machinery would go down and if dad and I didn’t know how to fix it – we would figure it out soon enough. You have to be creative problem solvers among other things – and you learn the connections between the land, nature and your livelihood,” he added.
A Walk in the Park
Nebraska Game and Parks Commission will continue collaborative partnership strategies with Department of Health and Human Services for the ‘A Walk in the Park – An Outdoor Option for Women’s Health.’ In its second year, the program encourages Nebraskan women, especially those enrolled in the Every Woman Matters Program (EWM), to utilize close-to-home outdoor recreation areas for physical activity. Nebraska’s exceptional park system is recognized as an ideal place to be physically active outdoors as a way to lower risk of heart disease and cancer, increase energy and improve mental health and mood.
Through the Health and Human Services’ $40,000 grant award, this year’s partnership will purchase 1,302 Annual State Park Entry Permits for women enrolled in the EWM Program, provide five monthly mailings highlighting NGPC areas and associated outdoor recreation opportunities, purchase program branded incentives and provide promotional funds for the Great Park Pursuit.
Outdoor Heritage Education Complex – Platte River State Park a Hub of Activity
Commissioners and the Game and Parks Foundation members were provided the opportunity to preview the facilities in advance of the summer season. They tried out all the sporting venues including the pellet guns, small bore range, cross bows and trap shooting.
Among the special guests were Lt. Governor Sheehy and District 2 Senator Dave Pankonin of Louisville, who championed the legislation to increase the park entry permit fee.
The attendees shot from the new tower and tested out the location for the trap range. The event also provided the opportunity for the staff to practice their skills and the processes for accommodating the public, to allow them to preview what to expect from users of the facility.
“The Game and Parks foundation has been an incredible in their efforts, and have been paramount to bringing it to fruition. The have been tremendous partners.” said Jim Swenson, Assistant Division Administrator.
To view some photos of the sneak peek event check out the Photo Gallery
April 23 the park hosted a First Shots event sponsored by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) and 20 youth and adults fired the first rounds of .22 ammo with handguns and rifles at the new rifle range. Many were novice shooters and included a three generation family group, all shooting for their very first time.
April 30 was the field portion of a Bowhunter Ed class and the participants used the new archery range to prove their bowhunting skills.
May 3 was the first of a series of lady archers who came to shoot at the Beyond BOW archery class. 11 women attended and all plan on coming to the next three classes because they had so much fun. They shot so long that the park had to turn on the lights when the sun went down.
May 21 and 22 the park hosted a Becoming an Outdoor Family event. The group used the new shooting complex and it was a great event and wonderful feedback followed, even considering the brief hail storm that came through Saturday evening. Christy Christiansen along with assistance from staff and many volunteers lead the group activities and provided an outstanding experience for all who attended the event.
There were 43 participants ranging from 18 months on up through the senior ranks who weren’t devulging their ages. The group hunkered down and rode out three back to back hail storms and no one was the worse for the wear. Attendees learned to put up tents, fish, bowfish, canoe, kayak, shoot, cook in dutch ovens and mother nature provided the special activity of “hail dodging.” This was a most memorable weekend for instructors and participants. lots of learning and laughter.
Here are some PHOTOS of the Becoming and Outdoors Family Event
Contact Christy Christiansen Outdoor Educational Specialist Nebraska Game and Parks Commission 402-471-5547 for more information on what’s happening at Platte River State Park. If you haven’t visited the park – you really should take a day and see what your missing.
At their annual coordinator’s conference in Louisville, KY the National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP) recognized the achievements of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission in getting archery into the state’s schools. Nebraska has over 170 schools across the state participating in NASP and reaches more than 21,000 students each year through the two-week archery curriculum. These numbers translate into NASP being conducted in 10 percent of the schools in Nebraska.
To commemorate the achievements of breaking the 100 school mark and getting 10 percent of the state’s schools enrolled in NASP two plaques were presented to the state. Nebraska’s NASP Coordinator Aaron Hershberger, NGPC Outdoor Education Specialist, accepted them both during the Coordinator’s Banquet.
“It’s nice to see the state’s efforts recognized as it represents the work of many individuals and organizations that want to see the positive impacts of archery expanded to our young citizens. The awards (also) serve as a challenge. Archery is a life-skill that everyone should have the opportunity to discover and take part in. We have a ways to go to meet that. This programs has proven that not only is it very popular with students, but can have a life-changing effect on some student’s behavior and school attendance.” Hershberger said.
New catchy name, same exciting educational experience. Formerly known as the Outdoor Expo, the event was given the new name to emphasize the educational components. The Outdoor Discovery Program was held in three regional locations; Platte River State Park on April 20 – 21, Scottsbluff Trails West Camp on May 3 – 4, and Fort Kearny State Recreation Area on May 12- 13.
A record number of 4600 students, plus teachers and sponsors attended an Outdoor Discovery Program. As a class, students had the opportunity to participate in five different activities. Activities ranged from shotgunning, archery, fishing, wildlife identification, water quality, kayaking, outdoor safety, camping experience opportunities and much more. Students that attended the Platte River State Park event were the first to use the park’s new shooting complex. Teachers and students were very excited to shoot in the new facility.
The Outdoor Discovery Program strives to achieve the following objectives.
- Provide hands-on programs so all youth, novice or experienced, have the opportunity to explore new outdoor activities, recreational possibilities and learn new outdoor skills.
- Enhance their knowledge and ethical understanding of wildlife and the outdoor atmosphere.
- Encourage health and wellness to students by promoting active outdoor lifestyles.
- Correlate activities with Nebraska State Standards in the areas of science, math, history, reading, and writing.
- Engage students in fun interactive activities in the areas of wildlife/habitat management, natural resource use, Nebraska History, shooting sports, hunting skills, aquatic knowledge and fishing skills, and camping and recreation.
Over 60 different local, county and state organizations teach an activity or assist at one or more of the regional locations. This event would not be possible without agency-wide teamwork and our volunteers. Visit the ODP web page for more info
Walleye Eggs Made to Order
Water Futures Partnership – Future Leaders Academy
Environmental Services Division staff, Michelle Koch, Rick Eades, and Carey Grell, are participating in the inaugural Water Futures Partnership-Future Leaders Academy. This is a one-year program that is intended to educate participants on water issues and proven leadership skills. The goal of the Academy is to provide an opportunity for Nebraskans who have demonstrated an interest in water and related natural resources an opportunity to broaden their knowledge on the issues.
Participants are learning about Nebraska water law, the entities responsible for managing water and related natural resources in the State, and the various beneficial uses of water including domestic, agriculture, industrial, fish, wildlife, and recreation. The Academy will take place over the course of 2011 and involve one and a half day sessions every other month. The first session was in March in Nebraska City, and the remaining sessions will be held at various locations across the State. There are 16 participants, and it is a diverse group that has come together for the 2011 Academy. At the end of the program, participants will have learned how to become more involved and take active, cooperative approaches to decision making about water resource issues.
Saturday, June 11, 2011 the $1.1 million Big Indian Lake renovation was unveiled to the public.
Work to renovate the lake began in 2009, but was delayed due to heavy rains. The new features at the lake, one of the state’s busiest in the area, include new beaches, camp sites, a boat dock and an emergency helicopter pad. All the new features will be well recieved but were not the primary reason for the renovation of the lake. In 2007, the lake was placed on the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality’s list of impaired water bodies for phosphorus loading and sedimentation.
As a result officials organized funding and logged many hours during the next year before draining the lake to remove nearly 200,000 cubic yards of sediment that had settled to the bottom of the lake over the 40 years since the lake was established. In order to prevent the problem from resurfacing three sediment ponds were added to the lake as part of the renovation
According to Scott Sobotka, Lower Big Blue Natural Resources District assistant manager, the new sediment ponds can be cleaned without needing to drain the entire lake. When the sediment dams reach a certain depth, the water will overflow into the lake, leaving behind the sediment that will settle to the floor of the smaller ponds. To celebrate the completion of the project, a public showing was held at the archery range. EA Engineering, NRD staff and members of the Big Indian Advisory Council were available at the showing to discuss the improvements with the public. A hayrack ride toured the lake and a free hot dog lunch was provided. Free archery lessons were also available for people of all ages.
While the lake has been entirely free to visit, this year marks the first year that a fee has been implemented for non-electric campers, which will be charged $5 per day or $50 for a year pass to use the lake.
Boaters should take note that no boating will be offered at the lake initially due to water levels and to protect the banks. Anglers will appreciate the fact that the lake has been stocked with 75,00 blue gill, 6,000 fingerling bass, and 30 large bass for spawning. Now would be a great time to get out there and spend some time enjoying the improvements at one of Nebraska’s greatest lakes.
View a Map of Improvements
Wildlife staff worked on finalizing plans to transition from six to four districts, including creating a new supervisory structure and redefining some staff responsibilities for specific Wildlife Management Areas.
Whooping crane sightings in the state peaked in April, with observations occurring in about 20 different locations. Wildlife and Law Enforcement staff were able to confirm many of the sightings, and in a few cases had to intervene to keep people from illegally disturbing the birds. The most noteworthy sighting was a group of 21 birds near Rockville in Sherman County, which represented about 8 percent of the entire flyway’s population. Scientists have recently placed transmitters on whoopers on their breeding and wintering grounds in Canada and Texas, respectively, and were able to track their last several migratory flights in and through Nebraska by satellite. More information about the project can be found at http://www.learner.org/jnorth/tm/crane/Interview_JessicaRempel.html.
Staff from the Wildlife, Fisheries, and Information Technology divisions worked to revamp the Passing Along the Heritage (PATH) program website. The web-based youth hunting reservation system now includes fishing access for youth on enrolled private waters, and is much more user-friendly.
More than 250 people attended the Wilcox Mini-Expo June 12. Estimates indicated about 75 per cent of the participants were youngsters who made their way through each station in the city park , most of them staying over an hour. The weather certainly cooperated with a beautiful day and many positive comments and thank-you’s were received from attendees.
2011 winner of the “Name the Chick” Contest announced
The one male Peregrine Falcon raised at the Capitol this year now has an enduring connection to the city where it was born and raised. Three contestants submitted the “name-the-chick” winning entry, which was “Lincoln”.
“Lincoln” was selected out of more than 260 entries from across Nebraska and 11 states. All three winner’s prize package includes a stuff-toy Peregrine Falcon and a year’s subscription to NEBRASKAland magazine. The young Peregrine has already been seen taken his first flights over the Capitol and its namesake.
The Capitol Peregrine Falcons have successfully produced young in five of the last six years. In 2005, the pair successfully raised one chick that, through the “name the chick” contest, was named “Pioneer.” In 2006, three chicks fledged and were given the names Willa, Bess and Sterling, after famous Nebraskans Willa Cather, Bess Streeter Aldrich and J. Sterling Morton. In 2007, four chicks fledged that were named Boreas, Notus, Eurus, and Zephyrus after the four wind gods from Greek mythology that are ascribed to the cardinal directions North, South, East, and West. In 2008, the pair laid eggs but was unsuccessful in raising young. If the pair successfully raises young again this year, the “name the chick” contest will be renewed. The pair was again successful in 2009 and fledged four chicks that were named Nemaha, Niobrara, Calamus, and Platte after Nebraska rivers. In 2010, the pair fledged three chicks that were named Alnitak, Alnilam, and Mintaka after the stars in the belt of the constellation Orion.
2011 Nebraska State Parks Summer Schedule
Nebraskans have more than 80 exceptional state park areas to enjoy this summer. These parks offer a variety of activities for all ages. If you haven’t visited all the parks in our park system you really should get out there and see what you are missing. Our parks are close to home and have choices in activities for any interests. Make it one of your goals to visit all of our parks in the state; you will not be disappointed. Be sure to check out our calendar of events to see what is scheduled in the upcoming weeks and months and then we will “See You Out There.” And don’t forget, if you are out there in our parks, to join in on the Great Parks Pursuit challenge. For more info on the GPP visit the website at negpp.org.
The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission offers this Summer Park Schedule summary to help Nebraskans plan vacations or trips to parks. Print out a copy and keep it handy. Remember, a park entry permit is required for all vehicles entering these park areas.
Ag Program Manager Position Filled
Eric Zach has been selected to fill the Ag Program Manager Position in the Wildlife Division. Eric is coming from the Department of Roads, but has previously worked for the Game and Parks in the Management Section of the Wildlife Division.
NW District Habitat Partners Section District Manager Named
Effective June 13, Matt Steffl has become the new North West District Habitat Partners section district manager (in Alliance). Matt had been serving as the District Manager of the Kearney (old District VI) office for the Partners Section since February of 2009.
Bryan Sweet has been selected to fill the vacancy of Conservation Technician II at the Valentine Hatchery effective today. This vacancy was a result of Jerry Ryschon’s retirement.Please help us welcome Bryan back into the Game & Parks staff.
New Coordinating Wildlife Biologist Announced
Caroline Hinkelman was hired as our newest Coordinating Wildlife Biologist in partnership with Pheasants Forever. Caroline’s position, which is held by PF, is funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help provide public recreational access on private lands. She will coordinate the Open Fields and Waters Program, including contract administration and the production of the public access atlas, from her duty station in our Lincoln headquarters office.
MAY 2011 SERVICE AWARDS
Cece Grime, Personnel, 5-3-11
Robert Hughes, Parks, 5-14-11
Randy Zoucha, Budget & Fiscal, 5-21-11
David Wehrly, Parks, 5-21-11
Alan Gruhn, Administration, 5-29-11
Roger Hartog, Administration, 5-29-11
Brian Moreland, Parks, 5-18-11
Ralph Wall, Information & Education, 5-20-11
Launa Eckmann, Administration, 5-20-11
JUNE, 2011 SERVICE AWARDS
Donald Dollinger, IT, 6-11-11
Heath Packet, Law Enforcement, 6-22-11
Richard Schneider, Wildlife, 6-15-11
Brian Schmidt, Parks, 6-17-11
Daniel Zuehlke, Law Enforcement, 6-3-11
Thomas Shrader, Operations & Const., 6-10-11
Gerald Garris, Engineering, 6-1-11
Randy Stutheit, Wildlife, 6-15-11
Dennis Bridge, Fisheries, 6-28-11
Coming up in July
July Outdoor Calendar
LINCOLN, Neb. – The following is a listing of Nebraska Game and Parks Commission events in July:
July 1 – National Park Service Program, Niobrara State Park (SP)
July 1-31 – Paddlefish snagging permit application period
July 2-3 – Living History, Fort Atkinson State Historical Park (SHP)
July 2-4 – Western Art Show, Fort Robinson SP
July 2-4 – Living History, Fort Kearny SHP
July 2 – Boating safety class, Lake McConaughy State Recreation Area (SRA)
July 2 – Boating safety class, Waterloo
July 2 – Buffalo Cookout and Program, Niobrara SP
July 3 – Vintage Baseball Game, Fort Hartsuff SHP
July 4 – Fourth of July Celebration, Fort Robinson SP
July 6 – Boating safety class, Albion
July 6 – Beyond Becoming an Outdoors-Woman muzzleloader class, Platte River SP
July 7 – Boating safety class, Grand Island
July 8-10 – Fur Trade Days, Chadron SP
July 8-10 – Bow hunter education class, Newman Grove
July 9-10 – Hobie Fleet 61 Sailboat Regatta, Lake McConaughy SRA
July 9 – Buffalo Cookout and Program, Niobrara SP
July 9 – Boating safety class, Valentine
July 9 – Boating safety class, Omaha
July 9 – Photography Class and Hike, Chadron SP
July 11 – Remaining big game permits may be purchased
July 11, 13 – Boating safety class, Lincoln
July 11-15 – Firearm hunter education class, Humphrey
July 12 – Family Fishing Night, Bowling Lake, Lincoln
July 12 – Waterfowl recommendation public meeting, Bridgeport
July 12 – Waterfowl recommendation public meeting, Broken Bow
July 12-14 – Firearm hunter education class, Lincoln
July 12, 13, 14, 19 – Firearm hunter education class, Greeley
July 12, 14 – Boating safety class, Sidney
July 13 – Family Fishing Night, Halleck Park Lake, Papillion
July 13 – Waterfowl recommendation public meeting, Lincoln
July 13 – Waterfowl recommendation public meeting, Ponca SP
July 13 – Beyond Becoming an Outdoors-Woman muzzleloader class, Platte River SP
July 13-16 – Firearm hunter education class, Eustis
July 14 – Waterfowl recommendation public meeting, Alma
July 15 – Waterfowl recommendation public meeting, Alda
July 15 – Becoming an Outdoors-Woman catfishing workshop, Branched Oak SRA
July 16 – Buffalo Cookout and Program, Niobrara SP
July 16 – First Shots rifle and handgun seminar, Platte River SP
July 16 – Boating safety class, Lake McConaughy SRA
July 16 – Boating safety class, Carter Lake, Iowa
July 16 – Naturalist Programs, Fort Robinson SP
July 16 – Boating safety class, Alliance
July 16 – Photography Class and Hike, Chadron SP
July 18 – Family Fishing Night, Interstate 80 Lake, North Platte
July 18-20 – Firearm hunter education class, Kearney
July 19 – Boating safety class, Grand Island
July 19 – Family Fishing Night, Cottonmill Lake, Kearney
July 19-21 – Firearm hunter education class, Lincoln
July 19-21, 24 – Firearm hunter education class, Wallace
July 19, 21, 23 – Bow hunter education class, Omaha
July 20 – Beyond Becoming an Outdoors-Woman muzzleloader class, Platte River SP
July 20 – Family Fishing Night, Mormon Island SRA, Grand Island
July 22-23 – Beyond Becoming an Outdoors-Woman kayak trip, Niobrara SP
July 22 – Stargazing party, Eugene T. Mahoney SP
July 23 – Buffalo Cookout and Program, Niobrara SP
July 23-24 – Central Nebraska Catfish Tournament, Calamus SRA
July 23-24 – Snakes of Nebraska workshop, Ak-Sar-Ben Aquarium
July 23-24 – Firearm hunter education class, Sidney
July 23 – Frogs, Toads and Turtles workshop, Wildcat Hills Nature Center
July 23 – Fantastic Fossils workshop, Wildcat Hills Nature Center
July 27 – Family Fishing Night, Holmes Lake, Lincoln
July 27 – Beyond Becoming an Outdoors-Woman muzzleloader class, Platte River SP
July 27-30 – Bow hunter education class, Nelson
July 28 – Family Fishing Night, Benson Park Pond, Omaha
July 29 – Nebraska Game and Parks Board of Commissioners meeting, Lincoln
July 30 – Dam Run, Lake McConaughy SRA
July 30 – Kites and Castles, Lake McConaughy SRA
July 30 – Buffalo Cookout and Program, Niobrara SP
July 30 – Naturalist Programs, Fort Robinson SP
July 30 – Photography Class and Hike, Chadron SP
July 31 – Nebraska Star Party, Merritt Reservoir SRA
For more information, visit the OutdoorNebraska.org calendar at http://outdoornebraska.ne.gov/calendar/calendar.asp