Even before the establishment of the Nebraska Game and Parks Foundation, generous Nebraskans found ways contribute to the state’s park and recreation system. While the Foundation makes it even easier to do so today—and more beneficial to contributors from a tax standpoint—these early gifts have meant a great deal to Nebraska and have set a standard by which today’s success is measured.
Here are just a few early contributions:
- Pressey Wildlife Management Area
Perhaps one of the most generous contributions every received came from H.E. Pressey, a school teacher who left his native England to settle on the treeless banks of the South Loup River near Oconto. His passion for growing things led him to experiment with a variety of trees, shrubs, vines, grasses and flowers virtually unknown to Nebraska in his day.
In 1930, Pressey donated 80 acres of prime land to the Game and Parks Commission as a recreation ground. In 1943, at the age of 86, he deeded another 1,444 acres to the Commission for “public recreation or for the propagation of wildlife and fish.” Included in that gift was more than a section of native grassland never touched by the plow. His 1,524-acre gift is now Pressey Wildlife Management Area, which continues to bloom to the benefit of wildlife and the delight of visitors of all ages.
- Arbor Lodge State Historical Park
The tranquil, tree-lined grounds and magnificent mansion created by J. Sterling Morton, founder of Arbor Day, are a true treasure for Nebraska. The home and its surrounding 65 acres were given to the state in 1923 by Morton’s eldest son, Joy. Over the years, Morton family members and others have helped furnish Arbor Lodge with antiques and other artifacts.
- Valentine Fish Hatchery
One of the earliest gifts to the state came in 1921 from the city of Valentine. The city deeded 88 acres for the Valentine Fish Hatchery to the state. Fishermen today continue to benefit from the generosity of a town and its citizens.
- Ak-Sar-Ben Aquarium/Schramm Park State Recreation Area
This was the first significant, privately funded state park project—and ultimately led to the idea of creating the Nebraska Game and Parks Foundation. The Game and Parks Commission traces its roots over 100 years ago to a small, private fish hatchery on the banks of the Platte River in Sarpy County. The late E.F. Schramm, once a geology professor at the University of Nebraska, donated 277 acres adjoining the hatchery for use as a public park and field-study area as a memorial to his parents. Generous contributions from the Knights of Ak-Sar-Ben and the Omaha World-Herald Foundation created the Ak-Sar-Ben Aquarium and World-Herald Theatre. Many other “Friends of the Aquarium” have donated to the ongoing development of this impressive educational facility, much to the enjoyment of nearly 400,000 visitors annually.