City of Lincoln  
City of Lincoln
Mayor's Office

Media Release


December 3, 2003

For More Information Contact:
Diane Gonzolas, Citizen Information Center, 441-7831
Lynn Johnson or J.J. Yost, Parks and Recreation Department, 441-8265 or 441-8255
Susan Larson Rodenburg, Parks and Recreation Foundation, 421-1401 or 440-3227


Mayor Coleen J. Seng and the Lincoln Parks and Recreation Department are inviting the public to view the preliminary plans to renovate the Sunken Gardens at an open house from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, December 4 at the enclosed shelter in Antelope Park, just east of the Auld Recreation Center, 3140 Sumner Street.

“While these plans are in preliminary stages, they are very impressive, and we are excited to share them with the community,” said Mayor Seng. “The hard work and generosity of so many people are resulting in a safer, more accessible garden that can be enjoyed by many future generations.”

The Clark Enersen Partners are developing plans and construction documents for the first major renovation of the Gardens since they were built in 1930. The improvements include a new entrance pavilion; a redesigned parking area with 34 parking spaces; handicapped-accessible walkways; a new entrance plaza and bus drop-off area; a restored cascading fountain feature; additional display beds; and rest rooms. The renovation also includes a rebuilt infrastructure with security lighting, new water lily display ponds, repaired stone retaining walls and an automated irrigation system.

“These plans are a progression of what was started more than a year ago by the City Parks and Recreation Department with input from the community,” said Dennis Scheer of The Clark Enersen Partners. “As architects and designers, we think it is imperative during the renovation design process to respect the integrity and history of Sunken Gardens. As we continue to develop the design and details of the Sunken Gardens renovation, we will do so with a light touch so that the fullness and richness of the Gardens can form memories for many generations to come.”

The Sunken Gardens were built as a Depression-era project on an abandoned neighborhood dump site. Through the years, the Gardens have become one of the most popular areas in Lincoln and are the only Nebraska gardens listed as one of the “300 Best Gardens to Visit in the U.S. and Canada” in the National Geographic Guide to America’s Public Gardens.

“We have made every attempt to be sensitive to the fact that people do not want the Gardens to change too much,” said Lynn Johnson, Director of the City Parks and Recreation Department. “The intent with these renovation plans is to enhance its special history while looking to the future. When this is finished it needs to look like a 1930s-era garden but have 21st century infrastructure.”

“We are thrilled with these preliminary designs and are looking forward to finishing the campaign to make the renovated Gardens a reality for all to enjoy,” said Clancy Woolman, President of the Lincoln Parks and Recreation Foundation.

In May, the Lincoln Parks and Recreation Foundation launched a $1.7 million fund-raising drive to restore the aging Gardens. Since then, nearly $1.57 million has been raised. Co-chairing the renovation campaign for the Foundation are Mike Seacrest and Roger and JeNeane Dodson. The Foundation hopes to reach its fund-raising goal in the next few months. The Gardens will be under construction in 2004 and will reopen in the spring of 2005.

More information about the Sunken Gardens and about the fund-raising campaign is available by calling the Parks and Recreation Department at 441-7847 and by visiting the web site at

Mayor's Office 2003 Media Releases