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Pursuing the parks – a great value

Campground Trail at Chadron State Park
The Campground Trail at Chadron State Park, which crosses Chadron Creek, is among the many sites accessible with a Nebraska Park Entry Permit. (NEBRASKAland/Justin Haag)

It is late May, spring has finally sprung, and only the most ardent of homebodies are not excited about getting outdoors. It is no secret — some of the best places to enjoy that time outdoors is at our state parks. From horseback riding to swimming, the parks are putting their activities and amenities into full gear this month. While the parks may be open and enjoyable year-around, the first official day of the busy season is May 26.

I have long believed that the state park entry permit is one of the best deals available on the entertainment scene. Those of us Nebraskans who buy one at the beginning of January pay just $31 for a whole year of access to some of the most beautiful, engaging places within the state’s borders.

I’m often amused by those who try to skirt around buying the permit, yet don’t bat an eye at paying many times more than that for one evening out at the movies, a ball game or concert.

The scenery alone is well worth the price of the permit. Whether you are drawn to the serene setting of Chadron State Park, the history and wide open spaces of Fort Robinson, the modern amenities and views of Wildcat Hills, or a big walleye at Lake Minatare, you are sure to find something you like in our parks and get your money’s worth.

The parks are important to Nebraska — offering not only diverse ways to connect to the outdoors and nature, but also generating a lot of economic activity. Our 77 state park properties are estimated to have a $749 million impact, generate $448 million in retail sales and support 8,199 jobs in the state.  While park permit money may make up just 8 percent of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission’s total revenue, it plays a vital role in making these lands enjoyable for visitors.

Oliver Reservoir
Oliver Reservoir Recreation Area near Kimball is one of the locations on this year’s Great Parks Pursuit. (NEBRASKAland/Justin Haag)

So, slap that sticker on your windshield and hit the road. You can buy one from the permits page of outdoornebraska.org. While you are there, you can find information about the parks and many outdoor activities – such as the Great Park Pursuit.

The Great Park Pursuit is a program that offers prizes for visiting 20 of a select list parks in Nebraska. Each park has a special post that visitors can use to make an impression with pencil and paper. In the Panhandle, the program will take you to Chadron State Park, Oliver Reservoir, Lake Minatare and Bridgeport State Recreation Areas. Then you can work your way east to Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge in the northcentral part of the state, Rock Creek SRA in the southwest, Verdon SRA in the southeast, and many points between.

I know you will be sure to enjoy your visit to these special places, just as I always do.

About Justin Haag

Justin Haag has served the Commission as a public information officer in the Panhandle since 2013. His duties include serving as regional editor for NEBRASKAland Magazine. Haag was raised in southwestern Nebraska, where he developed a love for fishing, hunting and other outdoor pursuits. After earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Chadron State College in 1996, he worked four years as an editor and reporter at newspapers in Chadron and McCook. Prior to joining the Commission in 2013, he worked 12 years as a communicator at Chadron State, serving as the institution’s media and public relations coordinator the last five. He and his wife, Cricket, live in Chadron, and have two children.

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