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Fort Atkinson visitor center renovation gets two-grant boost

LINCOLN, Neb. — Two new community grants worth $270,000 combined will give Fort Atkinson State Historical Park’s visitor center revitalization project another needed boost.

The two grants are from the Donald E. Nielsen Foundation for $250,000 and from the Lester A. Walker Fund of the Fremont Area Community Foundation for $20,000.

The Neilsen Foundation’s donation will be used to renovate the park’s movie theater with an historic vibe. Once completed, the theater will be named after the family foundation. Established in 2006 in Oakland, the foundation encourages personal achievement, service to the community and a just society.

The Fremont Area Community Foundation grant will be used to create two new interactive displays that invite visitors to be a “part” of history. One exhibit will be a replica 1820’s keelboat or wooden cargo ship designed for shallow waters, and the other will be a dome-shaped earth lodge, complete with artifacts.

The Fort Atkinson Foundation, which is dedicated to supporting Fort Atkinson State Historical Park, anticipates the projects will start in 2021, the year a statewide centennial celebration is planned for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission parks system.

“We are excited to receive these two grants so we can keep improving our guest experiences at this important historical site,” said David Genoways, president of the foundation. “These contributions, combined with others, to improve our museum exhibits, will hopefully continue to grow and maintain our audiences.”

All improvements at the park are part of a multi-year plan to enhance programming, restore aging facilities and boost visitation to the park located just 12 miles north of Omaha. That plan began in 2016 when Game and Parks initiated a public planning process and collaborated with numerous partners, including the Game and Parks Foundation, Friends of Fort Atkinson, City of Fort Calhoun, Washington County Historical Association, and the Fort Atkinson Foundation.

Since then, interpretive work and revitalization projects at the historical park have been ongoing through the support of donations and grants, such as these.

For more information about Fort Atkinson SHP, visit outdoornebraska.org.

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