UNL CropWatch April 1, 2011 OLLI Plans May Tour of Lower Platte River

UNL CropWatch April 1, 2011 OLLI Plans May Tour of Lower Platte River

April 1, 2011

Lifelong learners and anyone interested in Nebraska's waterways can take a close-up look at the Lower Platte River and its importance to Nebraska on a two-day tour in early May.

"Understanding the Lower Platte River" is a tour sponsored by UNL’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, or OLLI. The tour is May 10-11, beginning and ending in Lincoln.

It complements this semester's OLLI course, "Understanding the Platte River: Part Two -- The Lower River," but can be enjoyed by anyone "as a stand-alone educational adventure, as well," said tour organizer Bob Kuzelka, associate professor emeritus in UNL's School of Natural Resources.

The tour will explore the Platte River basin from the diversion into the Loup Power Canal near Genoa to the confluence of the Platte and Missouri rivers at the Nebraska-Iowa border near Plattsmouth, Kuzelka said.

On Monday, May 10, the tour will leave Hardin Hall on UNL's East Campus for Genoa with discussions about the rivers of Nebraska and presentations on federally threatened and endangered Interior Least Terns and Piping Plovers. First stop will be facilities of the Loup Power District.

Following lunch, the tour will stop in Columbus, including a visit to the Columbus Public Library to view a reproduction of the buffalo skin painting of the 1720 Villasur Massacre when Spanish soldiers and Pueblo Indians were routed by Pawnee and Otoe Indians. The massacre will be presented in depth during supper at Dusters Restaurant in Columbus.

On May 11, the tour will travel to Fremont State Lakes for presentations by Meghan Sittler of the Lower Platte River Corridor Alliance; Frank
Albrecht, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission; and Paul Brakhage, Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality on the recreational value and water quality challenges presented by gravel pit lakes.

The tour then will go to Two Rivers State Park and Metropolitan Utility District well fields for presentations by Kevin Tobin of MUD.

Next will be a drive through the former U.S. Army ordinance plant property near Mead, where the Kansas District office of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is undertaking soil and groundwater remediation efforts.

As the tour continues, operations of the Western Sand and Gravel Co., near Ashland, will be the next stop, along with talks about flood plain management in the basin and lunch at Schramm Park's Ak-Sar-Ben Aquarium with presentations by John Winkler of the Papio-Missouri NRD; Dave Sands, Nebraska Land Trust; and Bob Bozell, Nebraska State Historical Society.

Other afternoon stops will include the confluence of the Platte and Missouri rivers, the Randall W. Schilling Wildlife Management Area, a former rail, now trail, bridge spanning the Platte River and a look at gravel pit housing developments on Middle Island and North lakes.

The tour will return to Lincoln after a buffet dinner at Quarry Oaks Golf Course near South Bend.

A similar OLLI course and complimentary tour last year looked at the Platte basin from Grand Island west to the Wyoming border.

Tour registration is $235 per person, double occupancy or $295 per person single occupancy and includes motor coach expenses, lodging and six meals.

Registration is open to the public. Attending this spring's OLLI course at UNL is not required to register for the tour. Tour and registration questions should be addressed to Lee Rockwell, Valden Tours, (402) 486-0900. Registration deadline is May 2.

Cosponsoring the tour with OLLI are Loup River Public Power District; Lower Platte River Corridor Alliance; Prairie Fire Newspaper; and UNL's Water Center and School of Natural Resources.

Steven Ress, Communications Coordinator
UNL Water Center, Lincoln