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The dedication of land for park use was a hotly debated issue one hundred years ago. The Board of Park Commissioners of Omaha sought advice from a professional--H. W. S. Cleveland, designer of Minneapolis's park and boulevard system. Cleveland wrote a lengthy report, published in an 1899 issue of the Omaha Bee. He advised, "With free access to open fields and woods within a mile or two, we think of parks only as luxuries, but when the distance is so increased that a day must be devoted to the journey in order to secure the boon of green fields and fresh air, the sense of confinement becomes stifling and we mourn the folly which prevented us from foreseeing and providing for the certain want."

More than a decade earlier the Lincoln Daily Call, on August 2, 1888, had editorialized on the benefits parks could offer the citizens of Nebraska and advocated the formation of a "state park," which would be maintained by state funds: "The Call believes that the suggestion made by a thoughtful and widely informed citizen of Lincoln, that Nebraska secure and improve a state park is a good one. Kings and emperors and even wealthy private citizens have their parks. Cities have their parks. The United States has its national park [Yellowstone]. If these are good investments, why should not a fine park owned and maintained by the state be a credit to Nebraska and an object of pride and satisfaction to her citizens?

"Such a park would furnish the means of preserving specimens of the natural products of the state in both the vegetable and animal kingdoms. It would furnish a magnificent place of resort for the people who love to look nature in the face when she has laid aside her utilitarian guise and adorned herself in the garments of beauty and repose. There is too little of rest and too much of rush and worry in the great west. There is too much cultivation of the basely profitable and too little development of the higher phases of life. The state could make no better investment than to purchase about four sections of picturesque bluff land in some suitable location and use in its improvement some of the money that now goes into stone driveways of prodigious depth and similar unproductive and unsatisfactory schemes."

(July 2000)



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