Green Guide

Recent editorials published in Nebraska newspapers

Posted September 12

Omaha World-Herald. September 9, 2016

Nebraska's 5,000 years of history.

In a year when Americans are marking the centennial of the National Park Service, these landmarks deserve public appreciation as part of the celebration.

They came by the thousands, making slow, determined progress westward — in covered wagons, by horse, by handcart: pioneers on the Oregon-California Trail, two decades before the Transcontinental Railroad closed the distance to the Pacific coast.

During the 1840s, the main passage through Nebraska's Wildcat Hills was Robidoux Pass in what's now Scotts Bluff County. Native Americans had long lived in the area, of course. The earliest Europeans to squeeze through these narrows were probably fur traders in the 1820s.

The federal government has officially recognized the importance of Robidoux Pass by designating it as one of 20 national historic landmarks in Nebraska — structures or sites deemed significant because of a connection to a notable individual or event or because a site offers important insight into the past.

In a year when Americans are marking the centennial of the National Park Service, these landmarks deserve public appreciation as part of the celebration.

Many of Nebraska's historic landmarks are houses with links to familiar figures from the state's past: J. Sterling Morton in Nebraska City, George Norris in McCook, Willa Cather in Red Cloud and William Jennings Bryan in Lincoln. The whole of the Boys Town property also has this designation.

Other Nebraska's sites include the USS Hazard, a Navy minesweeper that saw service during World War II, now at Freedom Park near Eppley Airfield, as well as the Captain Meriwether Lewis Dredge, launched in 1931 and used by Army Corps of Engineers to dredge the Missouri River bottom, now on display in Brownville.

A notable site in Thurston County is the Dr. Susan La Flesche Picotte Memorial Hospital, a former hospital named after the first Native American woman to earn a medical degree. Picotte (1865-1915) was born on the Omaha Reservation and received her medical degree from the Women's Medical College of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

Picotte, for whom an elementary school in Omaha is named, opened the hospital in 1913 in Walthill. The facility ended medical services in the 1940s but has been preserved and continues to serve community needs for the Omaha Tribe.

Picotte was unofficial negotiator, secretary and translator for Omaha tribal members seeking assistance.

Archaeologically important sites with links to centuries of Native American heritage make up a considerable number of Nebraska's 20 national historic landmarks. These areas generally are not open to the public. Nebraska's sites include:

— The Signal Butte site in Scotts Bluff County. Archaeologists have found evidence of Native American habitation in three different eras: 3000-2000 B.C., 1000 B.C.-A.D. 500 and A.D. 900-1700.

That's correct: Evidence of human habitation in the Nebraska Panhandle some 5,000 years ago.

— The Schultz site in Valley County in central Nebraska. The site was occupied at times between A.D. 1 and A.D. 500. The people there were among the first in Nebraska to manufacture pottery. Evidence indicates trade links both to the northern Rockies and to the Gulf of Mexico.

— The Pike-Pawnee village site in Webster County in south-central Nebraska, occupied intermittently from the 1770s to the 1820s. Archaeologists have found remains of lodge sites, cemeteries and hoop game courts.

Iowa, with 25 national historic landmarks, also is home to several archaeological sites such as the Davis Oriole earthlodge site in Mills County.

Other national historic landmarks in western Iowa include the Grenville M. Dodge House in Council Bluffs, the William P. Hepburn House (home of a congressman in the late 1800s and early 1900s) in Clarinda and the Woodbury County Courthouse in Sioux City.

The Midlands' past has many different facets highlighted by these sites, from the modern era going back deep in the human experience. These notable locales help us better understand who we are, where we live and our region's place in history.

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Kearney Hub. September 10, 2016

Park growth calls for lots of support, stem to stern.

Kearney has always been a city with beautiful parks, but today we can credibly claim that Kearney's parks amenities are unrivaled among cities of our size in Nebraska and elsewhere. We are witnessing a historic chapter in parks history. There's really no other way to describe the explosion in recreational amenities that are unfolding here.

The explosion wouldn't be happening without support from many sectors. Here are a few examples:

Voters approved a special restaurant tax for a new community ballfield complex.

Excited, forward-thinking volunteers cleared out tons of junk to blaze the trail for Nebraska's first water trail.

Donors and volunteers who value healthy lifestyles have enhanced our hike-bike trail system.

In a report earlier this week, Hub Intern Andrew Hanson detailed current parks progress. In one example, Hanson cited the Fountain Hills Park in north Kearney offers adults a restive, natural walking spot and neighborhood children a playground for active, outdoor fun. Such neighborhood parks are the mainstay of a system that puts parks within easy reach of all residents.

Kearney's system also includes an array of more sophisticated and specialized features. The newest such features are the 2.3-mile kayak and canoe trail on Kearney Canal near Yanney Heritage Park and the Apollo Skatepark, which opened recently in north-central Kearney.

Soon to join the parks system is the $8 million Patriot Park ballfield complex near Kearney Regional Airport. The new ballfields will be a welcome addition in a city where youths vie for practice and game time on every available soccer, softball and baseball field.

Among Kearney's other amenities are swimming pools and splash pads, an amphitheater, lookout tower, fishing lake, an activity center for year-round use, dog park, bicycle motocross track, an attractive municipal golf course and the trails system, which currently is extending eastward toward Fort Kearny State Recreation Area.

Our parks would not be expanding without so much support, including partnerships such as the annual Community Olympics organized by the city's Park and Recreation Department and supported by CHI Health Good Samaritan to promote active lifestyles and expose Kearney residents to their city's many parks facilities.

How much longer will the parks expansion last? We see no end. Kearney's continuous growth, coupled with our knack for supporting good ideas, signal that parks will remain a key ingredient in Kearney's quality of life.

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Lincoln Journal Star. September 9, 2016

State board made right call on ACT plan.

The Nebraska State Board of Education gets an A for its quick action to employ the ACT for its statewide testing of high school juniors, a year before it is required by state law.

The previous statewide tests for fourth, eighth and eleventh graders were fraught with problem in the writing portion. Those assessments for all three grade levels are changing. But the changes will be biggest for eleventh graders, where the results, in the aggregate, will serve as a tool to measure districts' progress, and individually, the scores can be used by students for college admissions and scholarships. And for any student who would've done both, he or she is spared one test.

The board weighed proposals from both ACT and SAT administrators. Already more popular in Nebraska, the ACT came up the winner for a variety of solid reasons.

The ACT was closer to previous statewide tests in terms of its range of content. The ACT proposal includes direct communication with parents as well as with school officials. And schools get to choose whether to administer the tests via computer or with paper and good old No. 2 pencils.

Computer glitches only add to the stress of test-taking, and giving districts this option lets them decide for themselves if they have confidence in the technology and their own setup to use it.

Another big benefit - given the ACT's key role in the college admissions process in Nebraska - is the fact that some students will now be taking the ACT who previously might not have done so when it was a separate test. This means that at least a few students might end up considering college who otherwise wouldn't.

On top of all this, the ACT proposal was less expensive that the one floated by SAT.

The ACT test, for Nebraskans, it seems, comes up a winner. The last piece - and one that the ACT folks have pledged to help with - is getting the test approved as a measurement of accountability for federal education standards. That approval should be a no-brainer for all the same reasons that the ACT was such a solid pick for Nebraska.

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McCook Daily Gazette. September 7, 2016

Most Nebraskans won't complain about rain, but....

What was that I just heard, a complaint about rain?

Most long-time Nebraskans would bite their tongue rather than mention something about there being too much rain.

Weekend rains of as much as 8 inches left us more than 5 inches ahead of normal precipitation for the year and nearly that for the month alone, however, and we've been reminded that too much rain can, indeed, be a problem.

Roads have washed out, basements have flooded and hail has damaged crops, cars and buildings.

Perhaps old-timers will forgive us for uttering a discouraging word about the precipitation.

Since we're not used to dealing with an excess of rain, we do need some reminders of how to best deal with the excess of water, which can be a real health concern.

Heidi Wheeler, emergency response coordinator for Southwest Nebraska Public Health encourages residents to be careful about rainwater, especially standing water, which can act as a breeding site for mosquitos.

"Walk around your home or business and look for stagnant water," she urged. "Eliminate these areas as best as possible to avoid mosquito exposure."

Mosquito bites can increase your exposure to West Nile virus, which is best prevented by avoiding being bitten by the insects.

In other cases, she adds:

Remove standing water quickly.

- Discard wet, absorbent materials that can't be thoroughly cleaned and dried.

- Remove moisture by closing windows and running a dehumidifier or window air conditioner.

- Remember to wash your hands frequently with clean water or alcohol-based hand sanitizers. Disinfect toys that may have come into contact with storm waters.

- Clean up and prevent mold growth. Dry out the building as quickly as possible. Clean wet objects and surfaces with a bleach solution of 1 cup bleach per 5 gallons of water.

- If you receive a puncture wound or a wound contaminated with soil, sewer or storm water, treat the wound with soap and clean water and apply an antibiotic ointment. Contact your medical provider to find out if a tetanus shot is needed.

— Limit your contact with flood water.

-Avoid floodwaters; water may be contaminated by oil, gasoline or raw sewage

- Clean and disinfect everything that got wet. Mud left from floodwaters can contain sewage and chemicals.

- You should also keep children away from mud and make sure they don't play with anything that may have become polluted by flood water or sludge.

More information is available at http://www. swhealth.ne.gov/ or at Facebook.com/swnphd or @swpublichealth on Twitter.

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