Escaping normal Nebraska from inside Sarpy County

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Posted: Friday, October 18, 2013 12:00 am

Nestled away in southwestern Sarpy County, tucked right beside the Schramm Park State Recreation Area, is a camp many are unaware of despite it’s proximity and wide use.

The Eastern Nebraska 4-H Center on Highway 31 offers people young and old a place to retreat from the everyday life of cities and towns while only being half an hour between two of Nebraska’s largest cities.

“There is a facility within a 30-minute drive of Lincoln and Omaha that you don’t typically see in Nebraska,” Camp Director Jared Parker said.

Parker said the camp, which is run through a collaboration of the Nebraska 4-H Foundation and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension program, offers campers and retreat-goers a variety of activities in a wooded and hilly landscape uncommon in the relatively flat and field-filled landscape.

“It’s a really nice place to experience nature,” he said.

Founded in 1976, Parker said the main purpose of the facility is to serve as a summer camp for children throughout the summer, including serving as the site for such camps as Camp Coholo and Camp Floyd Rogers, which help children with cancer and diabetes.

For campers, the 4-H center offers 10 cabins, three campfire sites, a lodge and an inspiration center — a smaller, open building, which can fit up to 40 people for smaller conferences and groups. Campers can also enjoy a 25-foot inflatable slide, an archery and pellet gun range, canoeing, hiking and fishing in the nearby Schramm Park. Additionally, campers can take on the TRUST ropes course of high and low ropes challenges.

Many of these attractions are also open to school groups.

“During the school year, we have outdoor education,” Parker said.

While not as extensive as camp times, he said school groups will get a general experience with the outdoors through similar activities. The center can also serve as an outdoor classroom as many classes will bring nature curriculum, he added.

Parker said in addition to children, many church, craft, corporate and other groups will use the facilities as a weekend retreat.

“I’d say 75 percent of our weekend groups are crafters or recreational groups,” he said.

Many of these groups, such as quilters, woodworkers and scrapbookers, will rent out the main lodge, which can host up to 250 guests.

He said he feels the center attracts such craft groups as it is centrally located between Lincoln and Omaha, adding the center has a big draw from both areas. In addition, the wooded landscape — complete with an arboretum maintained by the Douglas/Sarpy Counties Master Gardeners — is attractive to creative people.

Other groups will rent out the facility for the weekend, he said, for $55 per person per day, giving them access to the cabins, three meals a day and use of all the camp’s activities.

One of the biggest draws, Parker said, is the Odyssey ropes course — a two-level, eight-obstacle high ropes course for teams of eight to work together to get through. He said corporate groups will use this to work on teamwork skills, as will some sports teams.

“Sports teams will come out to work on their communication skills in a different setting,” he said.

Parker said the day and retreat groups stop the weekend before Thanksgiving, and the camp will shut down for a few months to allow staff to plan and address maintenance issues difficult to address during camping season, such as installing a new roof.

Camping and retreat season generally starts again at the beginning of February, he said.

While some information and campsite photos are available online at 4hunl.edu, Parker said the best way to schedule a retreat or day trip is by calling 402-332-4496.

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