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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.

‘Reel in’ that discarded fishing line

NEFGA Recycling Bin

As soon as we arrived at the Chadron City Ponds for a short family fishing excursion, our dog Benny’s attention turned to the shoreline. His eyes were fixed on a bird dangling upside down from the rushes. Sadly, just as I suspected, the American robin had become tangled in fishing line. That bird flew off with a dangling leg for an undetermined fate as soon as I clipped the braided line free – a better fate than many of the …

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‘The basics’ weigh heavy in boat safety

Lake Minatare water scooter

As the temperature heats up, so does the activity at our lakes. Each summer, Nebraska’s lakes bring great memories to countless visitors who board boats and water scooters. There are few better ways to beat the heat on a summer afternoon than by skimming across the water. Unfortunately, the occasional bad accident puts a damper on the fun – an accident that in most cases could be prevented by taking common safety measures. Scott Eveland of Ogallala has been a …

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Plastic prevalence: Kayaks continue to gain popularity

Kayaks at Carter P. Johnson Lake

Just over a decade ago, I purchased a kayak from an outfitter in Texas — the nearest place I could find what I wanted. For quite a while after that, it seemed I was the only one on the water up this way using this type of vessel for fishing. That’s changed. It has been fun watching the popularity of these boats grow. While I certainly have enjoyed my big green hunk of plastic for its convenience, functionality and price, …

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‘Granddaddy of them all’ remains a gem

This is a big week for Chadron State Park,  the Nebraska attraction I call the “granddaddy of them all.” Chadron State Park. The park, which serves as a serene Pine Ridge getaway, gets that designation for being the first state park in a system that now has 77 diverse properties throughout Nebraska. On June 9, Chadron State Park will celebrate its 97th anniversary, and consequently the 97th anniversary of our state park system. The park actually got its beginning 99 …

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Nebraska’s first state park celebrating anniversary

Sunrise at Chadron State Park

CHADRON, Neb. – Chadron State Park, which became Nebraska’s first state park in 1921, will commemorate its 97th anniversary with its annual celebration Saturday, June 9. New to the event this year are trail running races of 1-mile, 5k and 10k and a 110-mile bicycle race, both part of the Pine Ridge Trails Race Series. The Panhandle Pedal Grinder bicycle race, which leads participants through forest and county roads of the scenic Pine Ridge landscape, will begin at the junction …

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Fort’s Market highlighting area crafts, arts, entertainment

CRAWFORD, Neb. – Arts, crafts and music are on tap for the fourth annual Fort’s Market at Fort Robinson State Park on Saturday, June 9.  The activities and vendor displays will be based at the park’s centrally located Buffalo Barrack’s from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. In addition to live musical entertainment, a bouncy house will be on-site for children. More information about the event may be found on a Facebook page titled “Fort Robinson Vendor Blender.” The event is …

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Guided wildflower hike this week at Wildcat Hills

Hoary Vetchling

GERING, Neb. – The Wildcat Hills Nature Center at Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area will celebrate National Wildflower Week with a guided hike through the park’s flora. The Wildflower Walk, an installment of the Wildcat Weekends series of events, will be Friday, June 8, at 7 p.m. at the nature center. Participants will learn keys to identifying flowering plant species during the mile-long journey. Amanda Filipi, the Commission outdoor education specialist who is leading the hike, said the unusually wet …

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Fort Robinson all saddled up for summer

Fort Robinson Rodeo

Nebraska has eight state parks and another 69 properties within our state park system. The largest of all of these is right in our neighborhood – the 22,000-acre Fort Robinson State Park. One of the most challenging questions people not overly familiar with our region ask is, “What is there to do at Fort Robinson?” That is certainly not because I am hard-pressed to find things for  them to do at the former U.S. Cavalry fort. It is because the …

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Popular musicals taking the stage at Fort Robinson

The Post Playhouse at Fort Robinson State Park

CRAWFORD, Neb. – The Post Playhouse at Fort Robinson State Park is launching another season of entertaining musicals for all ages. The theater will open its regular production schedule Friday, June 1, with Disney’s classic, The Little Mermaid. The summer lineup, presented by Post Playhouse Inc., also includes Footloose, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Urinetown and 42nd Street. Showings are presented on a repertory schedule and take place most days except Mondays from June 1-Aug. 19. Ticket prices range from $15-$28 …

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Pursuing the parks – a great value

Campground Trail at Chadron State Park

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 …

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