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UNL students present possible monument trails plan
November 22, 2012 Jerry Purvis   

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Nine graduate students from the landscape architecture and ecology department at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln gathered at the Farm And Ranch Museum Nov. 12 to present their findings about potential trails around the Scotts Bluff National Monument to a group of about 20 interested people from around the area.

“The students have been working on this project since last August,” said Monument Superintendent Ken Mabery. “They had a public meeting in October to learn what the public thought about possible trails and added that information to their report.”

Mabery said the students’ report contains about 16 alternatives for possible trails. They divided the monument property into seven different sections, studied how each section was unique and what alternatives would work for each area.

“From what I could tell, the report was well received by the public,” Mabery said. “The people overwhelmingly liked the idea of a bike or running lane adjacent to the road to the monument. There was also a lot of support for some kind of connection to the Monument Valley Pathway on the north side of the monument.”

The public also supported some kind of connecting pathway between the monument and the soon-to-be built Legacy of the Plains museum complex, which includes FARM and the North Platte Valley Museum.

“For some time, we’ve talked about the potential of having a concessionaire to operate a historic wagon coming into the monument area,” Mabery said.

A surprise, the “a-ha” moment as Mabery called it, was an idea for an e-trail, or electronic trail – an app that could be used on mobile devices to guide visitors to specific points of interest at the monument.

“That would be an exciting opportunity,” Mabery said. “It doesn’t require physical trails or construction of any type. The only cost involved would be to have the app written.”

Mabery said the grad students will now include the latest input into a final report, which should be completed by March of 2013.

“They’ve done all the work a private contractor would do at no cost to us,” Mabery said. “Plus the students are getting a grade for the work. That credential on their resumes is huge. I would have killed for that kind of opportunity when I was in grad school. It’s real world experience.”

Mabery said the report, once finished, is only a working document. If any of the proposed projects becomes reality, local tourism groups and monument staff will need to work together to raise the necessary funding.

“It should be pretty evident by May which trails have potential for development,” he said. “From there, we’ll reach out to every group that might be interested and hopefully begin seeking some grant sources.”
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