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Foundation buying land at base of pioneer landmark

November 14, 2018

FILE - In this April 23, 2006 file photo, Chimney Rock near Bayard, Neb., is illuminated at night. A foundation expects to close Thursday, Nov. 14, 2018, on its purchase of land at the base of a famed pioneer landmark in the Nebraska Panhandle, Chimney Rock. Nebraska State Historical Society Foundation executive director Leslie Fattig told the Lincoln Journal Star that the $400,000 purchase of 360 acres (146 hectares) will protect the site from development. The parcel lies between the state-owned spire and the Abbott Visitor Center. The purchase could let visitors get closer to the landscape formation.(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

BAYARD, Neb. (AP) — A foundation expects to close this week on its purchase of land at the base of a famed pioneer landmark in the Nebraska Panhandle, Chimney Rock.

Nebraska State Historical Society Foundation executive director Leslie Fattig told the Lincoln Journal Star that the $400,000 purchase of 360 acres (146 hectares) will protect the site from development. The parcel lies between the state-owned spire and the Abbott Visitor Center. The purchase could let visitors get closer to the landscape formation.

“It’s a big deal for us,” Fattig said. “Now we know that land is protected forever. It will always remain in pretty much the same state it was 150 years ago.”

Money for the purchase, which closes Thursday, is coming from the Dillon Foundation, he said. The historical society foundation is applying for a grant from the Nebraska Environmental Trust.

Chimney Rock received prominent mentions in diaries of pioneers migrating west on the Oregon, Mormon and California trails in the mid-1800s. It sits a few miles south-southwest of Bayard in Morrill County.

Landowner Gordon Howard had been born in a sod house in the shadow of Chimney Rock, and for decades his family operated the Oregon Trail Wagon Train, offering tourists rides, food and entertainment. He’d donated land for the visitor center.

Purchase talks that begin in spring with the foundation continued after Howard died last month. He was 85.

“That has always been Dad’s wishes; he always wanted to save the pristine prairie,” said Dan Howard, one of his sons.

The family had fielded other offers, Dan Howard said, and had approached a real estate agent.

“But it was obvious to the whole family that the first thing we needed to do was talk to the state,” he said. “We couldn’t be more excited with following through for Dad.”

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Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, http://www.journalstar.com

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