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Byway visitors center continues to serve

Published: Mar. 10, 2021 at 1:45 PM CST
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Many more people will be stopping at the Sandhills Journey National Scenic Byway visitors center now that the byway has a national designation.

“This byway was first recognized in 1999 by Governor Johanns,” current byway president Terri Licking said. People enjoy stopping at the byway visitors center in Broken Bow to get information about the route. The visitors center is actually a renovated red barn. “It was moved through town which was quite a chore to get it to this location,” byway volunteer Rick Maas said.

The first floor of the visitors center barn features exhibits about the area, and plenty of information. Then, you can go upstairs and find more exhibits about the byway, and see the bones of the old barn. “It was called the OK Luther barn,” Maas said. “It was white, and in pretty extensive disrepair at the time. It was being used for storage by the golf course at the driving range.” Maas says the barn was moved in 2007, and finally opened to serve the public in 2009. “The fellow that owned the property at the time, and who has been a huge benefactor for this place, is Roy Yanagida. He donated the barn, and since that time, he’s been so good to us with projects and providing money for expenses. We owe a lot to Roy Yanagida.”

And now people come to the roadside red barn, looking for information on the byway. “We get information requests for mileage, and Jean Akins, one of our great volunteers, put up one of the charts here that shows you how far it is from here to everywhere,” Maas said. “That’s really handy, because those are questions that are asked a lot.”

It’s a network of volunteers from all along Highway 2, who make the visitors center and the byway what it is today. “We are strictly volunteers,” Licking said. “Twyla Phillips is our secretary. She does the monthly newsletters, but other than that we are all volunteers.”

Jeanne Davis is one of those dedicated volunteers who comes to Broken Bow once a week from Hyannis to promote the byway. “I think it’s important to keep our small communities active, involved, and viable,” Davis said. “I think we are all trying to do that. It makes me kind of emotional.” She says visitors get a wide variety of experiences on the byway. “It’s a lot different when you go west to Hyannis,” Davis said. “Some of the land is different. Agriculture is different, as we are mostly all cattle there, and no farming. They get a taste of everything.”

Board members and volunteers hope to continue raising awareness about the byway that features natural beauty, just waiting to be enjoiyed. “It’s just beautiful country, and we love it,” Maas said.

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