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When Wilderness Was Just an Idea

newspaper article from 1964

For 50 years Wilderness Park has been home to countless adventures and memories. At sunrise on May 27th, 1972, Wilderness Park was officially opened to the public. This year, Friends of Wilderness Park will celebrate and share stories from Lincoln’s largest park.

Author’s Note:

I see this 50 year milestone as a true opportunity for myself since much of a board member’s work focuses on the month to month dealings of a non-profit. Creating these articles have opened my eyes to the true history of the land I love. I hope they serve you as well.

Now, let’s look at the beginning when Wilderness Park was just an idea. This article is the earliest record I could find mentioning Wilderness Park. The Lincoln Journal Star, June 16th, 1964 - eight years before the park was officially opened.

In 1964, City-County Planning Director Doug Brogden and Lancaster County Commissioner William Grossman attended a National County Officials and Engineers conference in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. At this conference, it was announced federal aid would be available to governments who would set aside land to preserve it in its natural state. Both Brodgen and Grossman were keen on the idea. When they returned to Nebraska, they began to coordinate meetings with interested individuals in Lancaster County with the goal of adding “Wilderness Park” into the 1980 Comprehensive Plan.

Doug Brogden was an avid supporter of green spaces. He not only helped bring Wilderness Park into reality, but also influenced the creation of many parks in Lincoln.

William Grossman, a lawyer, owned many properties near 48th and Fremont and his wife, Genevieve Grossman, owned and operated “The Patio” in Lincoln. Both were very interested in increasing the quality of life in Lincoln. 

Personally, learning the park began as an initiative by the federal government to increase green space gives me more appreciation for our government workers and whoever began the gears of government to protect the lands of Turtle Island. It was also fortunate for us that Grossman and Brogden were proponents of green space in Lancaster County. 

Wilderness Park has been listed as the 35th largest city park in the country. I imagine that list is full of names directly benefiting from the same gears of government that began in 1964. Today, 22 miles of hiking, biking or horse trails can be enjoyed thanks to those who worked to make Wilderness Park a protected area in its natural state.

Thanks to Tom Grossman and David Brogden for speaking with me and sharing stories about their families.

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