Hosted by AmericanTrails.org
Partnership brings success to Nebraska
By Julie Carmazzi Madden for the American Hiking Society
From the Summer
1997 Trail Tracks, the national newsletter of American Trails
The Trail and Partnership Movement
Located in southeastern Nebraska, Lincoln has a population of approximately
200,000. In 1978, the City embarked on the development of a trail system
which currently comprises 60+ miles of multi-use trails. These development
efforts have been a steady process for the past decade.
In 1989, a Lincoln Area Trails Master Plan was drafted by the Lincoln/Lancaster
Planning Department, City Council, Recreation Trails Advisory Committee,
and the Great Plains Trails Network (GPTN), a newly formed citizen support
group. The Master Plan made it possible to ensure trail provisions were
included within street improvement and drainage system projects undertaken
by the city and natural resources district. Additionally, the Master
Plan established a basis for fiscal planning which would support scheduled
trail development projects. Once the trail system is completed, approximately
99% of all Lincoln residents will have a trail within one mile of their
A substantial portion of the trail development funding came from a
city bond passed in 1989. After this demonstrated citizen commitment,
regular inclusions for trail funding was included in the city's budget.
Additionally, several state matching programs and local business contributions
assisted in funding ongoing trail development. The Lincoln Parks and
Recreation Department spent $3.8 million on trail acquisition and development
from 1988 to 1996. In addition, the GPTN has provided substantial funding
and resources for land acquisition.
A Recreation Trails Advisory Committee still operates today functioning
in mainly an advisory role. Comprised of local citizens, public advocates
and city employees, the group meets with the Mayor on an ongoing basis.
Since the early stages of the trail movement, a strong public/private
partnership has existed in the Lincoln, Nebraska, area. The City is
the lead agency working with the Recreation Districts and the Great
Plains Trails Network. Currently, there is no written partnership agreement
and the GPTN does not feel a need for one at this point in time.
GPTN has been the key private partner assisting the City with trail
growth since the master planning process. Initial efforts by a group
of individuals to acquire a piece of abandoned railroad bed that was
being disposed of led to the creation of the GPTN. Although these initial
efforts were unsuccessful, the need to have an organized group to work
with government agencies on trail issues was recognized. Thus, the creation
of the GPTN became a reality during the mid 1980's.
The need for a partnership was initially seen by the GPTN, who did
not have the ability to acquire railroad abandonments which are the
region's main trail sources. Therefore, the GPTN decided its actions
would be raising the money for land acquisition and government would
be responsible for management of the title. By working together, the
trail development process could expand within the city.
The Great Plains Trail Network
The Great Plains Trail Network (GPTN) has been a strong trail partner
serving as a nonprofit, advocating and supporting a network of multi-use
trails throughout the region. By assisting in the implementation of
the public 1989 Trail Master Plan through fundraising and promotional
efforts, their role has been vital in developing and expanding the Lincoln
trail system. Although the City has decision making responsibility,
the GPTN actively voices concerns as well as providing a substantial
amount of funding for land acquisition. Its main role includes legislative
and financial assistance for trail planning.
One strength of GPTN's many strengths is their vision of working with
and through other special interest organizations. As part of their financial
commitment, the GPTN works with the Nebraska State Foundation since
they offer tax deductible benefits to contributors whereas the GPTN
does not; they are not a 501-C3. The GPTN filters some of their moneys
through the Nebraska State Foundation who in return reimburses the GPTN
for some of their marketing efforts.
Additionally, much of the growth of the GPTN can be attributed to involving
a variety of user groups in their efforts. Throughout the years, walking,
running, and biking groups have been solicited to become members of
GPTN; diversifying trail issues and efforts. Membership includes individuals,
groups, and corporations. GPTN has recognized the importance of building
a comprehensive community movement for trails.
What Made it Work?
Two components of the planning process have contributed greatly to
the success of the GPTN. The first includes having supportive public
agencies willing to work together with other organizations sharing a
common goal. The second, was the development of the 1989 master plan
which served as a guiding force, keeping all partners focused on the
long range goals and objectives of the city's trail system.
Accomplishments of the Partnership
The partnership actively promoted the city bond issue through presentations,
radio announcements, and mailing programs. The bond issue contained
$1.7 million dollars for trail development and won by a 79% vote in
¥ Purchased railroad corridor for trail expansion; raising $275,000
over 18 months to fund the purchase.
¥ Initiated a development plan to reduce multi-use trail conflict.
¥ Conducted a variety of trail user surveys to assist in long range
¥ Involved at a statewide level increasing trail promotion and support
throughout the state.
¥ Assisted in the installation of trail markings and signage including
a Mile, Kilometer and Benchmark Donor Club program which funded such
¥ Raised over $1 million dollars in private funds.
¥ Sponsored an annual award program recognizing individual efforts
that foster trail development.
¥ Coordinated and assisted in special events held on and for the trail.
¥ Currently, have an 800+ membership base.
The GPTN has successfully dealt with many cases of trail opposition
by holding public hearings, presenting testimonials, and writing articles
supporting trails. By effectively educating the community about the
benefits of a trail system, GPTN is constantly increasing citizen support
Currently, physical gaps in the trail are a concern since long range
plans include one contiguous trail system and obtaining railroad rights-of-way
is a difficult and time consuming process. Although potential linkages
do exist, it will take serious negotiations with private landowners
for completed land acquisition. If during the initial planning process,
the physical alignment and design of the trail had been addressed, this
broken-up trail system might have been completed. A comprehensive land
acquisition plan could have been implemented instead of dealing with
sections one at a time.
Additionally, based from GPTN's experience, trail advocates should
be involved in physical trail design during the entire planning process.
Occasionally, trail designs and implementations lacked user input, placing
the trail in locations ill suited for trail use. By involving a trail
user during the planning, design, and implementation phases, trail layout
should meet the needs of the trail community.
Future Direction and Partners to Date
The GPTN will continue to be involved with planning and implementing
trails that focus on local and regional linkages. Recognizing the importance
of citizen involvement, the GPTN has been and will continue to be an
effective partner assisting the city as needed due to their limited
resources. For more information, contact V.T. Miller, Great Plains Trails
Network, (402) 483-2653.
Julie Carmazzi Madden, the author of this series of case studies,
is Greenway Coordinator for the Stapleton Development Corporation in
Denver. As part of the redevelopment of Denver's former international
airport, she is working to develop a major urban trail while rehabilitating
Sand Creek in partnership with a wide variety of interests.