Sandhills Discovery Center
Sandhills Discovery Center at Halsey
A Summary and Likely Next Steps
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:
- Hosting residential youth camping experiences
- Hosting local and regional celebrations, events, and conferences
- Providing lodging and amenities for tourists to experience the forest and the Sandhills
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, email@example.com
Jana Jensen, NCF Affiliated Fund Dev. Coordinator, 308/588-6299, firstname.lastname@example.org