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Timberlake Ranch Habitat Project

Combining Habitat and Youth Education
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  • Jonas and Cash Davis explore what is in the muck at Timberlake Ranch Camp
    photo by Jonas Davis, DU Nebraska
  • Porter Davis finds duck food in the wetland at Timberlake Ranch Camp
    photo by Jonas Davis, DU Nebraska
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Owned by more than 40 churches across Nebraska and Kansas, the Timberlake Ranch Camp provides unique outdoor experiences for thousands of visitors each year. In the summer, the camp hosts more than 1,500 kids with weeklong summer classes and provides multiple activities to more than 8,000 people annually. The camp provides unique experiences including a high ropes challenge course, horsemanship, arts and crafts, geocaching, paintball, skiing, swimming and other hands-on activities. The property consists of approximately 1 mile of riverfront on the south side of the Platte River just east of Central City.

Camp organizers approached Ducks Unlimited for help because they were able to use only a small portion of the property due to overgrowth of dense red cedar trees and silted-in sloughs. They were looking for restoration assistance so they could use more of the land for educational purposes and diversify their activities. The camp and DU recognized the opportunity to restore valuable habitat for ducks but, more importantly, expose more children to fun and engaging outdoor education involving wetlands and wildlife.

Restoration is currently underway thanks to the recent success of a North American Wetlands Conservation Act grant, private donations and a pending Nebraska Environmental Trust proposal. Plans include restoration of 1.5 miles of river sloughs, clearing of more than 80 acres of trees and design of multiple outdoor learning stations throughout the project area. Nearly 2 miles of nature trails will meander along the backwater sloughs, restored grasslands and main river stem. A kiosk at the trailhead will provide information on the project, the funders, interesting facts about local wildlife, a trail map and a handout with activities to be completed as children visit each station. Preliminary learning stations include wood duck nest monitoring, invertebrate and bug collection, plant identification and river ecology.

With the continued decline in hunter numbers and the limited opportunities for the next generation to experience nature first-hand, it is imperative we find fun ways to engage our youth in the great outdoors. The Timberlake Ranch Camp Habitat Project provides that opportunity with the infrastructure to support and house thousands of children each year. The project will not only provide habitat for thousands of spring migrating waterfowl in the most critical stretch of the Platte River, but also let future generations get their hands dirty and connect with the valuable natural resources Nebraska has to offer.

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