My first experience at Wilderness Park is one I will never forget.
Roughly four autumns ago, a couple of my friends asked me if I wanted to join them on a day adventure at the park. I assumed that we were going to a park where there would be picnic benches, freshly cut grass, and paved sidewalks, which is the majority of the parks I have been to in Lincoln and Omaha. We arrived at the park, I got out of the car, and the scenery was just how I predicted. In front of me was a baseball field, the grass was freshly cut, and the sidewalks were paved. However, to the right of the baseball field, there was a small dirt trail that fell adjacent to a tree line, leading into the forest. We proceeded to the dirt path, and within less than five minutes I was completely engulfed by old growth forest and lush understory. The canopy was so thick that only glimpses of the autumn sun were able to reach the path. The trail we followed was so quiet, so peaceful and completely surrounded by life. I could not believe that a place like this existed in Lincoln, Nebraska.
After walking ten minutes down the linear corridor, an opening appeared at the end of the trail. The opening took us out of the canopy and we found ourselves on top of an old railroad bridge that was towering over a creek. The bridge was composed of layers of soil and rock that have been compacted over time. I remember timidly peering over the edge of the bridge and watching the creek pass underneath us, thirty feet below. To this day, it is still one of my favorite locations within the park.
Until recently, I never knew that the creek that meandered elegantly through the eroded banks and canopy of cottonwoods was Salt Creek, part of the 90,000 square-mile Platte River Basin. After realizing Wilderness Park was only seven square miles of the basin, the sheer size and complexity finally came into perspective.
I have been a part of Michael Forsberg and Mike Farrell’s Wildlife Digital Imagery and Storytelling class since the fall semester of 2013. For the past two semesters, the students of the class collaborated to create a website and promote the University-owned conservation easement called Prairie Pines. This semester the students are all taking on their own projects. With the attachment I have towards my piece of the Platte River Basin, I decided that I would do my project on Wilderness Park.
In Lincoln, it is hard to find places completely engulfed by nature’s beauty. Walking through the park’s forest and watching the leaves on the trees dance with the wind, noticing the tiny insects crawling on the brightly colored flowers, and sitting quietly listening to Salt Creek gives me the overwhelming feelings of serenity and peace. I hope that by raising awareness for the park, people will be able to share my same feelings for many years to come.