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Gov. Pete Ricketts urges Nebraskans to 'get outdoors' to state parks, other attractions
special report

Gov. Pete Ricketts urges Nebraskans to 'get outdoors' to state parks, other attractions


LINCOLN — Gov. Pete Ricketts urged Nebraskans on Friday to “get outdoors” at state parks, lakes and tourist attractions as hospitalizations for COVID-19 decline in the state.

The governor, at a press conference, said 100 people were hospitalized for COVID-19 on Friday, which, coupled with the 97 hospitalized on Thursday, was the lowest level in the state since mid-April. Hospitalizations for COVID-19 peaked in Nebraska on May 27 at 257, he said.

“With everything that’s going on with the pandemic, there’s never been a better time to throw the kids in the car and drive around the state of Nebraska and do your summer vacation right here,” Ricketts said.

The governor said one of his favorite summer vacations was a road trip across the state with his family, stopping at attractions like Fort Robinson, the Kool-Aid exhibit at the Hastings Museum and a rodeo.

“If you don’t feel like getting on an airplane, drive around our great state,” he said.

Jim Swenson, an administrator with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, said state parks are seeing a resurgence of use after last year’s flooding, and seeing more families and more day-use activities, like fishing.

Many family memories, he said, are made during a camping trip or a cabin stay at one of the state’s 17 state parks and historical parks and 55 recreation areas.

His favorite? Paddling down the Niobrara River near Valentine to Smith Falls State Park, home of the state’s highest waterfall.

The governor also touted the Nebraska Passport program, managed by the State Tourism Commission. It guides visitors to 69 stops across the state like AquaPop, a gourmet popcorn shop in Wayne; Salt Creek Mercantile in Ashland; and Treetop Village at the Arbor Day Farm in Nebraska City. At each stop, visitors get a stamp for their Passport booklet, which qualifies them for prizes.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, some of the Passport stops are closed or on modified hours, according to the state tourism website. Swenson said that social distancing precautions are being taken at state parks and that extra cleaning and “resting” periods are being used for cabins.

Nebraska State Parks

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Reporter - Regional/state issues

Paul covers state government and affiliated issues. He specializes in tax and transportation issues, following the governor and the state prison system. Follow him on Twitter @PaulHammelOWH. Phone: 402-473-9584.

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