NAVIGATING WILDERNESS PARK
Wilderness Park is more inviting than ever with new bridges, upgraded trails, and improved parking lots. Now the city has been working to improve wayfinding in the large park. Maps and kiosks have been added. The kiosks have a QR code that can direct you to the city’s trail map on your phone. Signposts in the park are identified on the map. The Lincoln Parks Foundation is leading a $2.1 million campaign to fund the rest of the improvements to the park. If you are looking to get back to nature, this is a destination park for you.
SPRING CREEK PRAIRIE AUDUBON CENTER
Looking for a diversion? Head out to the Spring Creek Prairie Audubon Center, located a short distance south of Denton. The center has a section of never-plowed prairie with a variety of trail surfaces which are open year-round from sunrise to sunset. A visitors’ center has bathrooms, a water fountain, interpretive displays, and a nice gift shop. The limestone and grass trails offer a variety of views.
This is one end of the Prairie Corridor on Haines Branch project which will connect the prairie in Pioneers Park along a prairie greenway to Conestoga Lake, through Denton and south to Spring Creek. There is still much to be done to complete this project but almost 2/3 of the route is in a conserved area. You can access the Pioneers Park section by starting in the prairie by the Nature Center and then continuing over the new bridge to the far side of the creek.
CITY APPLIES FOR A GRANT TO EXTEND THE ROCK ISLAND THROUGH WILDERNESS PARK
The GPTN Connector Bridge extended the Rock Island Trail over the rail lines to the edge of Wilderness Park, where it connects with Jamaica North Trail. The city has applied for a $300,000 grant to the Land and Water Conservation Fund to complete the trail through the park. In the connector project the city used the old Rock Island bridge for part of the link. A similar bridge exists southwest along the right-of-way, which spans the Salt Creek. If the city receives the grant, it will use the funds to rehabilitate this bridge (providing decking and railing) and handle erosion issues in the area.
The Great Plains Trails Network would donate $80,000 in private funds to support the project which would extend the trail through the park. In Wilderness Park it would be a dirt trail comparable to other trails in the park. The city expects to hear the outcome of the grant application in February 2022.
–The Jamaica North Trail has been closed between the Saltillo Road trailhead and South 14th Street for replacement of a rail bridge. This project received significant support from Jim Carveth, a local bike shop owner, in memory of his father. Recent rains delayed completion of the project, but the trail should reopen in the near future.
–The Rock Island Trail has been closed through the Children’s Zoo because of work on rebuilding the old teachers’ fountain. Despite delays the project should be completed by the start of December. While the detour on the Billy Wolff Trail isn’t onerous, things can get crowded when bike commuters and runners converge.
–If you think you have been seeing more freshly painted center lines on trails lately you are not imagining things. Parks and Rec has adopted new software which improves tracking of this process and allows city crews to survey trail signs systematically as well. The goal is to have all lines repainted every 3 years. The city is particularly concerned about trails immediately adjacent to city streets with no grassy area separation. They want to be certain that runners, bikers, and pedestrians stay in their lane.
–If you run from or through downtown Lincoln you are well aware of the new scooter program. Although very popular with UNL students, scooters are often left strewn over the trails. As the days get shorter, complaints from runners and bikers have surfaced about the hazards of suddenly encountering a scooter on the trail in a poorly lit zone. The scooter program has been expanded to include both the Telegraph District and near downtown areas, so be alert!
Special thanks to Sara Hartzell and Bobby Bartja at Lincoln Parks and Recreation for their assistance. See you on the trails!