On April 25 every year, individuals and groups are encouraged to plan and care for trees. Arbor Day started from Nebraska City, Nebraska by J. Sterling Morton in 1872 and an estimated one million tress were planted on that day.
Canada marks Arbor Day on the first Thursday in May when each Grade 1 student in Calgary schools is given a tree to take home to be planted. So far, an estimated 400,000- tree seedling has been distributed to grade one students on Arbor Day.
One of the remarkable institutions in the world, which promotes tree planting, is Lied Lodge & Conference Centre in Nebraska City. It was established as a resource for the Arbor Day Foundation members and other conservative-related institutions.
Pronounced lead as in leadership, Lied Lodge publicizes Nebraska’s environmental programmes that focus on trees, conservation and environmental stewardship. I had the pleasure of touring Lied Lodge, a major facility comprising of 144 guestrooms, a fine dining restaurant, a cocktail lounge, an indoor swimming pool, jacuzzi, sauna, and fitness center. Nature lovers and conservationists have at their disposal walking trails and jogging tracks to satisfy their passion. Even breakfast, lunch and dinner are served with a view of nature.
Here one can visit the tree house, taste orchard-fresh apples and adults can sip the farm’s especial wines or hike miles of scenic nature trails. As you enter the center’s spacious foyer, one sees conservation messages such as – The best friend on earth of man is the tree – splashed on its walls. It is the only educational facility of its kind in the US with staff and programmes dedicated to trees and conservation.
Another institution in Nebraska, Lincoln’s Children Zoo, further enhances this spirit of being close to nature. Opened in 1965, the zoo was created as a family destination where thousands of children and adults could interact with nature. John Chapo, president and CEO of the zoo, who has 41 years of zoo experience, 27 of which as zoo director, explains that the philosophy of the zoo is “to enrich lives through firsthand interaction with living things.”
With dedicated and experienced staff on his team, Chapo said it has become a place where children could get up-close to animals and surround themselves in scenic gardens. ” Children are allowed to touch animals of all types – fur, fins, feathers, scales and more. They can feed animals directly and can ride an animal. Here children can become an animal and can connect one on one with any of the 100 species that reside here,” said Chapo.
For high school students, the zoo holds a “zoo school” where the zoo’s extensive animal and plant collection are observed, measured and studied as a living laboratory. Lincoln Children’s Zoo is a home to over 350 animals, more than 40 of which are endangered. Nearly 200,000 people visited the Zoo in 2012, making it the third most attended arts and science attraction in Nebraska. This “high school” for animals holds summer classes aimed at teaching children about animals and their habitat at an early age.
Nebraska is fortunate in having institutions like the Lied Lodge and Conference Centre and the Lincoln Children’s’ Zoo, which not only practices but also preaches valuable lessons on nature, animals, tress and how to preserve our environment.
The most inspirational and tranquil place to stay in Nebraska is the River Inn Resort, situated between Omaha and Kansas City. Located on the Missouri River, the resort offers bed and breakfast on a former casino boat permanently docked in Brownville, population 128. The husband and wife team who own the resort are very hospitable and would cook and serve an absolutely wonderful breakfast consisting of fresh fruit on a skewer, quiche, blueberry muffin, hash browns and a slushy orange-pineapple juice! The rooms are clean and modern with TV, telephone and comfortable mattress, ensuring a unique experience to visitors. An ideal setting for honeymooners and regular vacationers seeking peace and tranquility.
Very close to the River Inn Resort is Brownville, a perfect picture postcard village in Nebraska with a population of 132, which has become important as a tourist attraction with several old houses converted into museums. There are also art galleries and wineries in and near Brownville. Nestled in a valley alongside the Missouri River, this quaint little village’s importance increased when in 1970 First Lady Laura Bush, designated it as one of the nation’s newest Preserve America Communities. “Preserve America Communities demonstrate that they are committed to preserving America’s heritage while ensuring a future filled with opportunities for learning and enjoyment,” Mrs. Bush said.
Another distinction bestowed on Brownville is that in 2004, it became part of the Booktown movement when it was named one of only three booktowns in the US – the other two are Grass Valley, California and Stillwater, Minnesota. Jane Smith, who owns the Lyceum Bookstore Restaurant, was the one responsible for getting Brownville recognized. She said the movement was established because it was believed ” that civilization will be greatly improved if we don’t throw all of our used books into ditches or burn them but we make them available to the public at very reasonable prices.”
Book seller Tom Rudolf, who sold books in Omaha for 40 years, can appreciate the philosophy of getting used books in the hands of people who will appreciate them. Tom has gradually moved his enormous collection of 150,000 previously read books to the old Brownville High School. Describing a trip through the Antiquarium (meaning antiquities such as rare and old books) like a treasure hunt of sorts, he said, “You’re not coming just to find a book that you read about yesterday that’s on the best seller list but you’re waiting for something to fall off the shelf and hit you on the head.”