Primary partners with the Prairie Corridor on Haines Branch project announced today that they have secured $7 million for the 10-mile-long tallgrass prairie passage and trail, nearly one-third of the overall goal. That total includes a recent grant from the Nebraska Environmental Trust (NET) of $900,000 and nearly $1.3 million in grants, matching funds and private donations raised since August. The announcement was made just prior to a free public event celebrating the Prairie Corridor at the Pioneers Park Nature Center.
The Prairie Corridor on Haines Branch project will extend from Pioneers Park to the Spring Creek Prairie Audubon Center. An estimated $22 million will be needed to complete the project, which is designed to build on Lincoln's trail system, promote ecotourism, support environmental education and preserve tallgrass prairie. The primary partners include the City, the Lower Platte South Natural Resources District (LPSNRD), the Spring Creek Prairie Audubon Center and the Lincoln Parks Foundation.
"Our fundraising success has allowed us to add more than 950 additional acres to the 4,500 acres along the Corridor that were already protected through conservation easements or public ownership," said Maggie Stuckey, Executive Director of the Lincoln Parks Foundation. "We have also completed the first two segments of trail within Pioneers Park, protected more than 200 acres of virgin prairie, and re-established tallgrass prairie on over 140 acres."
Once completed, the Prairie Corridor will connect Pioneers Park, Conestoga Lake State Recreation Area and Spring Creek Prairie Audubon Center. The project's timeline will depend on the voluntary participation of willing landowners. Project partners are working with landowners through a voluntary, incentive-based approach to conservation through the purchase of land or conservation easements, or by enhancing the prairie resources on their own.
As part of agreements signed in 2017, the City, LPSNRD and Spring Creek Prairie Audubon Center are coordinating on all elements, including conservation, trail development and the enhancement of wildlife habitat.
"The NRD is committed to preserving native prairies and has been working with landowners on prairie restorations for more than 15 years," said Larry Ruth, LPSNRD Board Chair. "The Prairie Corridor on Haines Branch will give the public a chance to experience a natural prairie up close and become better educated about its history and environmental significance. They will also benefit from the recreational trail connections the Corridor will offer."
Mayor Chris Beutler thanked the project partners for their leadership, vision and willingness to work. He said the generational project will take "persistence and passion" to complete.
"I know that we all have a great love of this place we call home, and from that, the heart to speed this project forward," Mayor Beutler said. "It has been an honor to work with such a fine group of elected officials, landowners and community volunteers who share our passion for celebrating Nebraska's heritage while, at the same time, preserving opportunities for our children and grandchildren to connect with the natural world."
Beutler also announced that he will continue working on the project as the co-chair of 16-member Prairie Corridor on Haines Branch Cabinet. He will join conservation photographer Michael Forsberg, who has been serving as chair since the Cabinet was formed in 2017. The project partners also announced two additions to the Cabinet-City Council member Jane Raybould and Michelle Paulk, Vice President of Community Outreach for the Lincoln Community Foundation.
The Prairie Corridor project is a collaborative effort among more than 30 public and private agencies, including Lancaster County, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln School of Natural Resources, the Lincoln Community Foundation and the Great Plains Trails Network.