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Sandhills Discovery Center

Sandhills Discovery Center at Halsey

A Summary and Likely Next Steps

July 2023


In October 2022 the Bovee Fire destroyed the Nebraska State 4-H Camp in the Nebraska National Forest at Halsey. After this natural disaster, several partners pulled together to form a 21st century vision for experiencing the forest and the Sandhills. The working title of this vision is the Sandhills Discovery Center at Halsey. As envisioned, this complex will be designed to perform three key functions:

In 2023 Senator Mike Jacobson of North Platte led the way in securing a $10 million appropriation from the State of Nebraska to initially fund this 21st century vision. This appropriation requires a 1:1 match.

In December 2022 Nebraska Community Foundation commissioned an independent economic impact study of ecotourism development at the Nebraska National Forest at Halsey. In summary, investments in a combination of facilities (including lodging, conference and event space, dining, outdoor education, etc.) could generate $4 million of new economic activity every year. Preliminary cost estimates total $47 million, which includes a $10 million endowment. Based on these preliminary cost estimates, it is anticipated that this project will be completed in two or three phases over the next several years.

This new economic activity will be complementary of and beneficial to the local economy. The new jobs created will be a reliable source of off-farm income for ranch families and a catalyst for small businesses already focused on ecotourism.

Key partners in this collaborative effort currently include: local, regional and statewide donors; State of Nebraska; University of Nebraska—Lincoln Extension; Nebraska 4-H Foundation; and Nebraska Community Foundation. Conversations are being scheduled with the USDA National Forest Service and Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

The initial timeline includes:

May 2023                           State of Nebraska appropriation secured

June 2023                           Begin facility feasibility study

Fourth Quarter 2023       Determine site for the new complex

Fourth Quarter 2023       Begin fundraising assessment

Second Quarter 2024      Complete facility feasibility study

Second Quarter 2024      Complete fundraising assessment

Third Quarter 2024          Feasibility study accepted by Nebr. Dept. of Economic Development

Third Quarter 2024          Begin fundraising for Phase 1

Third Quarter 2025          Complete fundraising for Phase 1

Third Quarter 2025          Contract with lead architect

2026                                    Complete construction of Phase 1


The Sandhills Discovery Center at Halsey currently exists as an affiliated fund of Nebraska Community Foundation. At some point in the next year or two a new 501(C)(3) nonprofit corporation will be formed to hold title to and operate this facility.


For more information contact:

Jeff Yost, NCF President and CEO, 402/323-7330,

Jana Jensen, NCF Affiliated Fund Dev. Coordinator, 308/588-6299,