A monumental year lies ahead for landmark’s centennial

December 15, 2018

GERING — The Scotts Bluff National Monument will officially celebrate its 100th anniversary on Dec. 12, 2019, but a variety of events have been planned throughout the year so the Panhandle community and visitors from around the world can celebrate no matter when they come.

A committee of volunteers was formed in 2018 to make the year one to remember. They have spent months planning and brainstorming ideas that will be fun and memorable.

“We wanted the community to be involved in the process and the committee members are really motivated to provide engaging, relevant and fun programs that the entire community will support,” Kayla Gasker

National Park Ranger and centennial coordinator, said.

“One hundred years ago, the creation of the monument was a community effort and we want the centennial celebration to be as well,” she said.

Although Dec. 12 marks the founding of the monument, by a presidential proclamation, it was the Gering and Scottsbluff communities that initiated the request for the land to be set aside as a unit of the National Park service.

“An inquiry was made to the Department of the Interior in 1914, two years before the National Park Service was established,” Gasker said. “Community leaders saw the significance of Scotts Bluff (National Monument) and its importance in American history and did not back down until the area was protected for future generations.”

The monument has always held significance in the area. It is a landmark, beacon and refuge for generations of people and wildlife, she said.

“From the hundreds of thousands of emigrants seeking a better life by way of the Great Plains to the modern-day families seeking adventure on the open roads, we envision Scotts Bluff to continue to be a landmark for future generations,” she said. “Today, Scotts Bluff National Monument is an integral part of the western Nebraska Panhandle community — whether a venue for recreation and physical fitness or a place of solitude and scenic vistas.”

The monument plays a part in many stories from the overland trails, the telegraph and transcontinental communication as well as in the first images of the American West by William Henry Jackson and the work completed by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Boasting more than 150,000 visitors each year, the economic impact is extensive for western Nebraska.

With all those visitors, as well as 87,789 residents in the Panhandle, staff at the monument are preparing for a large influx of people who want to be a part of history. There will be interpretive speakers, Trail Treks with the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center as well as annual events like the Monument Marathon.

“We will have an expanded presence at some of the larger annual events in town like Summit to Summit Run/Walk, Monument Marathon and the Bicycle Hill Climb,” Gasker said. “We’ve partnered with the Midwest Theater for a Science on Screen showing of ‘Dante’s Peak’ with a talk with expert geologists before the movie showing.”

Junior Rangers who pass through will also receive a special junior ranger badge and visitors will be able to place a special centennial stamp in their park passports. Gasker is looking forward to one particular program next year, which is still being finalized.

“One of the creators of ‘The Oregon Trail’ computer game, Philip Bouchard, will come do a program for us,” she said. “Growing up in the 1990s, I remember playing the game and I know that there’s an entire generation that have those memories, too.”

The program will be an in-depth comparison of the real Oregon Trail and the computer game. Visitors will also have the opportunity to play the game.

Gasker is also anxious to see the completion of the visitor center renovation and expansion. With additional space, updated amenities and interactive exhibits, Gasker feels the visitors center will be a “wonderful highlight” for the community and visitors.

Staff will be posting updates on the monument’s Facebook page on construction and new centennial programs and events as they come up. They are still open to adding more events. Anyone who wants to partner with the monument on centennial events may contact Gasker at kayla_gasker@nps.gov or 308-436-9700.

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