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Exploring Homestead National Historical Park

Published: Apr. 5, 2021 at 5:32 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 5, 2021 at 9:59 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - You are invited to rediscover a popular southeast Nebraska park, that now has a new name.

“Homestead is a dynamic place, and we believe that changing the name from Homestead National Monument of America to Homestead National Historical Park is very fitting,” park superintendent Mark Engler said. The name switch is now underway. “We have started changing the signage,” Engler said. “We have also started changing over many of the internet sites that you can find out there that have our name on it.”

Rich Hovendick is with the group called “Friends of Homestead.” He says the plan to change the park’s name gained momentum after a national park survey. “They found that 89 percent of the people that came here were looking for a monument, or a rock, or a plaque,” Hovendick said. “People that go to a monument think they can spend 15 or 20 minutes, take a picture of a monument, and go home. Now they know it’s a historical park, there’s a lot more here to see.” The name change should help to bring in more visitors. “When other parks have done this, they’ve greatly increased the number of visitors they’ve had on a yearly basis,” Hovendick said.

The group “Friends of Homestead” has been working with Nebraska’s congressional delegation for years, to make the name change a reality. “It started back in 2008,” Hovendick said. “There was a bill put in the United States House of Representatives that didn’t pass. Again, we brought up a bill in 2018 that did not pass.” Finally, yet another bill passed the House in 2019, and the Senate in 2020. “I found out that only one percent of the bills that are ever introduced in Washington ever get passed,” Hovendick said. “So, I feel very fortunate that ours did, and we had to have it passed by the Senate by January 1st, so it had to be done December 31st. The absolute last thing they did on December 31st was take up our bill and pass it.”.

Friends of Homestead is thanking Nebraska’s congressional delegation for helping the bill become law. Now, the park is ready to welcome more visitors, and those visitors have much to enjoy. “This is one of more than 420 different units within the National Park Service,” Engler said. “You can tell by our name ‘Homestead’ that we are all about the Homestead Act of 1862. We talk about the Homestead Act’s impact not only on the United States, but it’s impact on the nation, impact on immigration, impact with native people, and impact with agriculture and industry. The reason this National Park Service site is located at this particular site is because we are on the nation’s first homestead that was claimed under the Homestead Act of 1862. It was the Daniel Freeman claim.

What’s in a name? In this case, the Homestead name change means an even brighter future. “From a cultural, national and recreational standpoint, there’s just a variety of things that a person can do,” Engler said.

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