Pioneer Park and Nature Center is situated at South Coddington Avenue in Lincoln, Nebraska. The area consists of 668 acres of tall-grass prairie, woodlands, wetlands and a stream and serves as an environmental education center and wildlife sanctuary. It opens year round from 8.30am to 5pm Monday to Saturday and 12 noon to 5pm on Sundays excluding Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Day and admission is free.
The aim of the center is to promote the awareness of the natural environment in Nebraska as well as giving enjoyment to the public, and to provide a sanctuary for wildlife and a peaceful retreat for people. The center has strived to do this by educating people and looking after the environment and wildlife since 1963. Visitors can for example take tours along eight miles of hiking trails, walk through various habitats and view injured raptors that cannot be released, as well as bison, elk, and white-tailed deer herds.
Many animals can be seen at the park and nature center with staff happy to bring out snakes and turtles for the public to get a closer look. Other animals housed at the center include American kestrels, box and Blanding's turtles, gray tree frogs, screech and barn owls and tiger salamanders as well as bullsnakes, fox snakes and prairie and black rat snakes. Roaming around outside visitors will hopefully see wild turkeys, vultures, eagles, bison, elk, deer, hawks and owls.
Two buildings providing more information on Nebraska's environment and wildlife can be found at the nature center. The Chet Ager Building has exhibits including live snakes, owls and turtles as well as hands on activities relating to the woodlands and wetlands and exploration area for children. The Prairie Building has exhibits too with more snakes, turtles and kestrels, whilst there are hands on activities relating to the tall-grass prairie, a children's area with puzzles and building materials and a craft area for preschoolers.
Visitors can enjoy the beauty of the gardens surrounding the Prairie Building, which are filled with drought tolerant plants seen in the prairie, with information provided about how the plants have been used throughout history. The Louise Evans Doole Herb Garden is located north of the Chet Ager Building and was created in 1972 and named after the editor of The Nebraska Farmer and author of several books on herbs. Here there are over 150 herbs, with labels there to help visitors identify the varieties.
Many events and programs are organized here with trained naturalists and teachers on hand to guide children in particular, with activities including school hikes, 12 weeks of nature camps for 3 to 16 year olds, birthday parties and outreach programs. Between September and May, the Nature Center Preschool serves children ages three to five years old and helps them to learn colors, counting and shapes through exploring nature. These young children also have the opportunity to plant colorful annuals in the Preschool Butterfly Garden each spring.
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