Aksarben Trail Ride (copy)

Kirk Kobiela of Springfield, Nebraska, left, and Joan Schmoldt of Wayne, Nebraska, ride at Danish Alps State Recreation Area near Hubbard.

Nebraska’s Danish Alps

Just returned from camping and riding our horses at one of Nebraska’s newer State Recreation Areas, Danish Alps at Hubbard, Nebraska.

A big round of applause to the Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District and the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission for an outstanding park.

It features a beautiful lake with eagles and pelicans, an eight-mile trail by a lovely tree-lined river, miles of riding around the lake and an immaculate campground, complete with horse pens, electrical hookups and restrooms with showers.

The trails are well-mowed and maintained. For nonriders, there is fishing and kayaking on the lake and a limestone trail all around the lake with kilometer markers.

Thanks to the delightful crew that takes obvious pride in the maintenance and continuing development of Danish Alps. We had a beautiful two days.

Vicki Krecek, Omaha

Family meals enrich

One of the most beneficial ways in which a family can spend time with each other is at the dinner table, because it allows time for conversation and engagement. It is a time when the whole family can come together to discuss their days and interesting things that might have happened.

Taking time out of a busy schedule to sit down and talk with each other is vital for a family’s well-being. According to the Washington Post, researchers have found that family dinners allow for conversation and boost a child’s vocabulary.

There are also health benefits because families are less likely to eat fast food if they are eating a cooked meal at a table. Family dinner time allows for communication between children and parents, which is necessary in strengthening relationships.

As a child, I always loved being able to talk about a good test grade, a new friend or something funny that one of my teachers said.

I always knew that about 5:30 p.m., I would be able to share my successes for the day, and this gave me something to look forward to. Now, as a 19-year-old, I realize those conversations at the dinner table gave me confidence to speak up in matters outside of my family home.

Our schedules are so busy, and taking a step back from the distractions being pushed in our faces every day to have a family conversation is essential in allowing a child to develop and grow into a well-rounded being.

Marguerite Hendrickson, Omaha

Gas tax increase

A recent World-Herald article noted the federal government is considering raising the federal gas tax from 18 cents per gallon to some unknown figure.

The federal tax has been the same for years. Although I basically oppose any tax increase, I feel that an increase in this tax is necessary if we are to maintain our highway systems.

Maintaining our Interstate system is expensive. For example, according to the Nebraska Department of Transportation, the Omaha-to-Lincoln portion of the Interstate costs approximately $10 million per mile. West of Lincoln, the cost is approximately $4 million per mile.

The big difference is that west of Lincoln, it is basically four lanes with a limited number of exits and entrances, whereas between Lincoln and Omaha, it is basically six lanes with a lot of exits and entrances.

I have always considered the gas tax a use tax. You must pay to use the highway system. Some states have toll roads to help with maintenance costs.

Have the federal and state governments given any consideration to how to charge vehicles that do not pay the gas tax but use the highways, such as electric cars and natural gas vehicles?

An initial fee could be paid at purchase and annually on the license registration date. As time goes on, more and more vehicles won’t require gas, so something should be considered now.

A number of states have a minimal fee for electric vehicles, including Nebraska, but it doesn’t come close to what a normal driver pays in gas taxes.

Howard Rudloff, Omaha

Helping to change lives

I am writing to acknowledge an organization that has provided me with a life-changing volunteer opportunity: Rise, a nonprofit prison re-entry program, formerly Defy Ventures Nebraska.

Three years ago, I learned that the State of Nebraska had authorized this nonprofit to offer its six-month job readiness, character-building and entrepreneurial learning curriculum to willing incarcerated men and women, no matter the length of their sentences.

I began participating in periodic prison business coaching events. I soon realized that listening and honest feedback were the key elements needed to be of benefit to the brave participants, called builders.

Each volunteer brings something different to a coaching event, and collectively, we offer a broad array of insights to the builders.

I found that my repeat appearances as a coach affirm there is a caring community outside our Nebraska prisons. Corrections Director Scott Frakes, wardens, correctional officers, Nebraska Parole Board members and state senators have participated in the Rise outreach events.

We laugh, we cheer, we clap, we cry and we build because we have hope. Graduates of Rise go on to mentor subsequent classes. The sense of worth the graduates come to embrace ripples through each facility.

Currently, 70 individuals are in the Rise post-release program, and 90% are employed, with zero repeat incarceration to date.

Incarcerated Nebraskans have the skills and experience needed to fill many open jobs in our state. We can help make a second chance happen by being a link to that job and the dignity it offers.

Nancy Bingham-Hartnett,

Coleridge, Neb.

Choose health plan carefully

The information in Julie Anderson’s Oct. 6 article about Medicare Advantage health insurance was helpful (“New options for Medicare Advantage plans available”).

But it did not include warnings for consumers to be aware of when choosing these kinds of plans over traditional Medicare.

Those concerns would include making sure people understood when they enrolled for these plans they would not get all of the benefits typically provided under traditional Medicare, such as choice of physician and always being able to get coverage for services recommended by their physician.

In addition, there will be deductible and co-pay costs that can be much higher than traditional Medicare with a supplemental insurance plan. And speaking of supplemental insurance, another major problem is that once people elect to go into a Medicare Advantage plan, it may be very difficult to leave that plan and replace it with traditional Medicare later on.

These are the kinds of things that people are not warned about when they are being sold on a Medicare Advantage plan but are very important to know before making a choice.

If you are not sure what to do, find an objective and reliable organization that will give you all of the facts rather than a sales pitch.

Organizations like the Eastern Nebraska Office on Aging provide information for free. Some physicians’ offices also have trained staff who can explain the differences in these Medicare programs. It can make a huge difference in your care options and costs in the future. Beware of slick sales pitches.

Gary Glissman, Omaha

A thanks for Omaha’s generosity

It has been a good year for the Omaha community to support the American Italian Heritage Society, the Santa Lucia Festival Committee and the Order, Sons and Daughters of Italy in America, Grand Lodge of Nebraska and its Cristoforo Columbo Filial.

This “Omaha good” in particular is evidenced by the success of the annual Heritage Society La Festa Italiana, the annual Santa Lucia Festival and the current rebuild of the Sons and Daughters of Italy Hall, extensively damaged in a disastrous 2017 fire.

Close to completion, this lodge hall, because of so many good people’s affinity for our beloved city that flows into the historic Little Italy neighborhood, will certainly add to one of the Sons and Daughters’ finest moments.

Molte Grazie, Omaha, for your fine efforts and for contributing to the pride of October’s National Italian Heritage Month, along with recognizing a great Renaissance explorer, Cristoforo Columbo.

P.J. Asta, Omaha

Fund scientific innovation

Regarding the article, “Trump’s rumored pullout from Open Skies Treaty would idle Offutt jets” (Oct. 9 World-Herald):

By pulling out of various treaties as we have been doing, we will engender another arms race which critically depends on developing superior novel technologies unknown to our “enemies.”

Yet, amazingly, we are not supporting scientific innovation as we used to. Funding agencies have sustained massive budget cuts and have become bloated bureaucracies focused on image, incremental “herd” science and politics.

In many cases they don’t fund the kind of risky and novel out-of-the-box research that they used to, and our bottom-line short term profit-seeking corporations most certainly won’t.

Today, it’s much more difficult for scientists to perform the kind of cutting-edge research that sustained America’s longest period of prosperity and enabled us to become the superpower of the world.

At this moment in our history, America is just not ready for another expensive arms race as we are losing our ability to innovate and win.

Michael Pravica, Ph.D.,

Henderson, Nev.

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