No. 31--Oak Creek Park
This is Oak lake, in Lincoln's newest park--1st to 14th, Y to Oak, 279 acres. If you are unimpressed, please remember two things: First, a nice expanse of blue water is never to be looked down the nose at, especially in a prairie city. Second, it is a wonderful improvement on the magnificently proportioned dumping ground which used to occupy the same quarters, and over which roamed unfortunates peering and picking at bits of refuse. Things have been done to Oak creek, so that its main channel now runs thru the center of the park. Between it and Salt creek lies the lake, which members of the Lincoln boat club rejoice in as a place to hold races.
The park site was once a part of the great salt flats whose glistening white blanket drew early settlers to Lincoln. In fact, these saline lands took a prominent part in the early history of Lancaster county--in the courts, in politics, and elsewhere. Both Governor Butler and J. Sterling Morton were Morton had put up log cabin on the flats and pre-empted the basin in 1861. In 1870 Butler leased the flats. Endless complications and law suits resulted. In the end Butler, was forced to pay thousands of dollars to the state.
The salt industry, from which so much had been hoped, fail for several reasons--importation of cheaper salt from Utah, the difficulty of forming large areas into drying pans, and the destructive rains and overflow which for 80 years have bedeviled the Salt creek bottoms. The last named situation the sanitary board has been battling with renewed vigor since disastrous flood of May, 1942, with considerable promise of success.
Returning to the subject of parks, Lincoln is liberally sprinkled with them. We have 22 in assorted sizes.
No. 32--Pioneers Park, West Van Dorn
One day in 1928 John F. Harris, a New York financier who had grown up in Lincoln in the seventies and eighties, met a boyhood friend who still lived here. The rusty gate of memory swung back--it had been 40 years since Harris left Lincoln--and sharply accentuated before him stood the past. In a rush of deep affection for all that had gone into his boyhood he immediately resolved upon a memorial to his parents, to be located in the city in which he had grown to manhood. The result was Lincoln's largest park. His boyhood friend George Woods picked out the 600 acre site and Mr. Harris came to Lincoln and approved. He was urged to use the family name for the park, but when he visited the site of his old home at 16th and K and stood at the graves of his parents in Wyuka, he decided on another--one which would name his parents in a broader sense and include all those with whom they had toiled in the wilderness--Pioneers.
George Harris, the father, came to Lincoln in the early seventies as land commissioner for the Burlington, and as part of his work brought thousands of people to the state. Later one of the sons, George B. Harris, became president of the Burlington. John F. Harris went to New York and became a successful financier. It was Mr. Harris' wish not to drive nature from the rolling stretch of prairie presented to Lincoln, only to help her turn her most hospitable face to the city. One of the hills forms a natural amphitheater from which many programs and services have been heard. Lakes beautify the rolling surface of the park. Herds of buffalo and elk are a reminder of the early days. Near the east entrance stands a buffalo in bronze, also given by Mr. Harris, and made in Paris by the famous sculptor, Georges Gaudet.
© 2000, 2001 by Kathie Harrison, Ted & Carole Miller