- Associated Press - Friday, September 12, 2014

NEBRASKA CITY, Neb. (AP) - The foundation that will take over operation of Arbor Lodge state park and mansion plans to make the home of Arbor Day founder J. Sterling Morton more accessible to people with disabilities.

The Arbor Day Foundation on Nov. 1 will assume responsibility for the 72-acre Arbor Lodge State Historical Park in Nebraska City, the Lincoln Journal Star reported (https://bit.ly/1nQdR5D ). The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission last month approved a five-year agreement with the foundation. The commission still will own the park and the 52-room home built by Morton in 1855.

Tammy Partsch, president of Friends of Arbor Lodge, told the newspaper that the foundation plans to spend $1.5 million on the accessibility issues, restore terraced gardens, build an events shelter and make other upgrades. The legislature approved the funding to help overcome a huge maintenance shortfall and the cost of complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Organizers gathered more than 1,100 signatures in support of legislation to allow local control and appropriate money for improvements.

“Now, we have people in town with a vested interest in maintaining the park and being progressive in making it more accessible and making it more of a destination place,” Partsch said.

Parks Administrator Jim Swenson the foundation will be responsible for staffing the park and setting hours but commission employees will help with the transition. He estimates the arrangement will save $250,000 a year in operating expenses. At the direction of lawmakers, the commission plans to identify other parks where similar agreements could save money.

The mansion will close Oct. 19 as it has in the past. Visitors can still tour the park in the winter.


Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, https://www.journalstar.com

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