Community Fights State To Open Historic Park

Franque Thompson

NEBRASKA CITY (KPTM)- Community leaders take their fight to the state to keep a historic park open. The Arbor Lodge State Historic Park and home of the national holiday "Arbor Day" has been temporarily closed for months.

Nebraska Game and Parks said the decision to close was based on budget cuts to help pay off more than $30 million in deferred maintenance work statewide.

The gates at the landmark are chained shut with signs stating the parked is closed. The is usually open year round, with the exception of the mansion. However this time around is different.

"Closed for the season meant lock the doors, lock the gates, nobody can come in," said Tammy Partsch, of the Friends of Arbor Lodge Foundation.

Nebraska Game and Parks temporarily closed the historic attraction back in the fall. 28 other parks throughout the state also had to lock the gates.

Partsch said the park was already in need of some major repairs from years ago. Since the state shut things down, the park looks even more ragged.

"The way it looks right now, it's not something that we're proud of. We want to be proud of this, but the disrepair has gone on too long," said Partsch.

That's why community leaders took matters to the legislature. A bill was proposed to grant the park more than two million dollars to fix things up--inside and out. Then after that--grant all control of the park to the city and its supporters.

"We could be like a lot of small towns out there and just slowly die away, but because of tourism we have a resurgence year after year of visitors that come in. And that helps our business, that helps our schools, that helps our homes," said Partsch.

Partsch said it's not all about money. It's the history and culture behind the beloved arbor lodge. She says that's why her community is willing to fight to keep the gates open for good.

"Once we get all this worked out, the next step is to develop a concrete plan as to what we're going to do when--to make sure that we can bring arbor lodge back to it' glory," said Partsch.

Partsch said if the bill passes, community leaders and management will clean the park as best they can before the Arbor Day celebration on April 25th.

Nebraska Games and Parks said it has reduced cleaning and maintenance at sites in recent years, but this is the first time sites have been closed.

The state will open Arbor lodge in April, but if the bill does not pass, the state will temporarily close it down again after the fall.

So far no one has testified against the bill.