Story and photos by Renae Blum
It had already been an enjoyable day: wading in Pawnee Lake, picnicking along the shore, chasing Frisbees and etching names in the sand. But it was perhaps a simple green post that garnered the most excitement of all.
“I see it! I see it!”
Spotting the familiar outline along a wooded trail, Kenzie and Ellie Muma of Papillion took off at a breakneck pace, racing to get there first. Once their laughing parents caught up, the girls took turns pressing a sheet of paper to the top of the post, making a rubbing with a crayon.
It’s an experience the Muma family enjoyed several times that summer: visiting a Nebraska park, following clues to a post, making rubbings and mailing them in for a chance at prizes.
That’s much of the idea behind the Great Park Pursuit, a free treasure-hunt-style program that plays out each year at parks across Nebraska. Twenty official sites are selected each year, including city parks, state parks, natural resource district areas and sometimes national park areas. Teams can visit as many as they choose, following clues to Great Park Pursuit posts and logging their visits on paper or in a mobile app for entry into prize drawings.
Past prizes have included a GoPro camera, backyard bird packages, two-night cabin stays, magazine subscriptions, park entry permits, and the grand prize, $1,500 of outdoor gear.
It’s a popular program, too: Each year, participants make over 100,000 park visits, with more than 700 teams participating.
The Mumas have participated for several years now, and it’s become a mainstay in their lives. “It kind of lays out the summer for us,” said Amanda Fryzek. “It gives us different vacation plans for the weekends to enjoy with family.”
Her husband Vince guesses that they have visited more than 50 sites in total. They’ve stood beneath a waterfall at Smith Falls State Park, watched reenactors make candles at Indian Cave State Park, and splashed in puddles at Pacific Preserve in Omaha. They even discovered a park in their own neighborhood that they’d never visited: Halleck Park, a new favorite.
“This program really gets us to check out new places,” Amanda said. “We’ve gone back to Halleck Park so many times now.”
Her family’s experience of the Great Park Pursuit has been a family affair from the start. Their oldest son, 11-year-old Keenan, introduced them to the program after trying it with his grandma. Since then, they’ve shared park visits with all their family and closest friends, and Amanda’s mom buys them state park passes each year for Christmas so they can continue enjoying the Great Park Pursuit.
One benefit of the Great Park Pursuit is that it’s an easy, cost-effective option for family fun, Amanda said. It also keeps them active and introduces them to Nebraska’s lesser-known gems.
“People think you have to travel far to see something really cool, and that’s not the case at all,” Amanda said. “Nebraska has such cool, unique places to visit. There are so many places to see and things to do here that we wouldn’t have done without the Great Park Pursuit.” ■
How to Get Involved
Ready to begin your Great Park Pursuit adventure? Visit negpp.org and click “Get started” to sign-up your team for free. Browse the “Locations” tab to learn more about this year’s park sites and find one near you. Make sure to check out the “Activities” tab for ideas on fun activities for kids to enjoy when you make your visit. The program runs from May 1 to Oct. 31, 2022.
The Great Park Pursuit makes it easy to plan an outdoor experience. The park information sheets include detailed descriptions of each site, including directions and information on park amenities and activities. You can mark your visit to a Great Park Pursuit post with either the official app or the information sheet; some walking may be required to reach the post.
Anyone can participate. Teams can be made up of individuals, families, friends, coworkers, youth organizations or any other group you belong to. Both the program and app are free; you only need to pay for postage when mailing in rubbings. Follow the Great Park Pursuit on Facebook for additional tips and information.
The Great Park Pursuit is a joint program of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and the Nebraska Recreation and Park Association. Sponsors include the Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District and the Nebraska Chiropractic Physicians Association.