b-aa receives grant for prairie in the park project
May 11, 2011
The Benson-Ames Alliance is the recipient of a 2011 grant from Mayor Jim Suttle’s Neighborhood Grants Program. The grant, totaling $4,788, will support the Prairie in the Park project, a partnership of Omaha by Design, the City of Omaha and the Benson-Ames Alliance (B-AA) – a collaborative of nine neighborhood associations.
The project, a pilot, will create a series of urban prairie plots on city park property within the B-AA. Each plot, planted with prairie grasses and wildflowers, will include interpretive signage that explains the value – both economic and aesthetic – of incorporating native plantings into the local landscape.
The construction portion of the project will be carried out in phases. Phase I will create a two-acre test plot in Benson Park this spring.
The community outreach portion of the project will focus on gaining public acceptance of the historic yet misunderstood prairie aesthetic. The B-AA, in partnership with the parks department, intends to use the sites to structure events that highlight the importance of sustainable landscapes in urban life and to encourage Omahans to give native plantings a try at home or the office, said Connie Spellman, director of Omaha by Design.
Native plants conserve water, add color and attract wildlife. Their deep root system promotes water infiltration, recharges groundwater and creates a better soil structure to support plant life.
Work on preparing the test plot in Benson Park is under way. The seeding process is set for late May or early June, depending upon the ground temperature. Once established, plans include creating a mow path through the plot that will provide park visitors with opportunities to explore the plants and wildlife.
The idea for this project was submitted by University of Nebraska-Lincoln senior Zack Fergus last fall in conjunction with Pass the Potatoes, a virtual town hall event sponsored by Omaha by Design that invited the public to share ideas for improving the sustainability of the city. Users submitted more than 100 ideas in five areas. Following the idea submission period for each area, the public was asked to improve upon the ideas of others and then vote for their favorite idea.
At the conclusion of the online outreach effort, a panel convened by Omaha by Design and city officials reviewed the top ideas in each category for potential implementation. Fergus, a native of Omaha, suggested introducing the prairie aesthetic into public parks and properties. His idea was selected for implementation in 2011.
Funding for the project is provided through grants, donations and in-kind support from the City of Omaha Department of Parks, Recreation and Public Property. For those who would like to contribute, a project fund has been established at the Omaha Parks Foundation. Checks can be sent to:
Omaha Parks Foundation
Prairie in the Park Project
Attn: Amber Miller
1819 Farnam St., Suite 701
Omaha, NE 68183
The project has also created a Prairie in the Park Speakers Bureau. To book a speaker for your neighborhood or civic group meeting, call 402.554.4010.