"Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.”  

Jane Jacobs

Running Down Memories: a Return to Lincoln, NE

This past weekend I drove home to Lincoln, Nebraska to host my little sisters bridal shower and bachelorette party. I spent weeks planning the events to make sure they went off without a hitch and for the most part they did. I even managed to bake themed cookies that turned out mostly like the Pinterest post I saw. 

The wedding is in Jamaica which is why they are beach themed

The wedding is in Jamaica which is why they are beach themed

I stayed with my mom who lives in a southern neighborhood with great access to dozens of separated paved trails. For Saturday's adventure, I decided to take the Rock Island Trail north to the University of Nebraska and wind my way back through my old neighborhood, Near South.

One of many trail options to choose from

One of many trail options to choose from

The first mile of the route was through a small wooded park with a winding creek. Despite backing up to town homes and Highway 2, I have seen turkey's wandering through here before. This is not uncommon for cities  to host such unusual wildlife and Minneapolis even has a pack of turkey's famously dubbed the Northeast Turkey's. I was unlucky and did not see the turkey's on my run, but did cross paths with rabbits, squirrels, a variety of birds, and a few dogs.

Bridge crossing over the small creek

Bridge crossing over the small creek

After leaving the park I ran up 27th Street to the bridge crossing Highway 2. Lincoln has invested in their trail network by installing grade separated crossings throughout the city to make using the trails more enjoyable and safe. The Rock Island Trail I took runs parallel to 27th Street, but is nestled into suburban developments. Backing up to the trail is my favorite residential project, a warehouse converted into apartments on A Street. I would love to someday live in a building like this with large industrial windows letting in large amounts of day light.

If I ever move back to Lincoln, I want to live here

If I ever move back to Lincoln, I want to live here

The next leg of my journey had me stopping every quarter mile to take pictures. The Antelope Valley Project is a stunning display of flood control providing economic, transportation, and beautification benefits. The $246 million project was completed in 2012 and has helped revitalize the neighborhood and provide connections to downtown and the University of Nebraska campus.

Just one aspect of the project showing the creek with the Capital in the background

Just one aspect of the project showing the creek with the Capital in the background

I hopped off the trail at Vine Street and ran west towards the University. I expected to find it mostly deserted given that I was running early on a Saturday morning, but it was instead packed with students. They were all sporting white shirts with The Big Event written on them, which appeared to be a volunteer program run by the University. I wound past Archie the mammoth, a life size bronze statue outside of Morril Hall (he has been there since I was visiting the museum in elementary school) and then the stadium. I recounted each class I took in the education buildings as I flew by. I roamed those paths for five and a half years .

Main entrance to the stadium

Main entrance to the stadium

I took a familiar route to 8th Street where I used to park for night classes during graduate school. 8th Street is the spine of the Historic Haymarket District and is lined with 3-4 story brick buildings from the late 19th and early 20th Century. These buildings used to be framed by the industrial rail yard, but now they are now set against a backdrop of new hotels, parking garages and the Pinnacle Bank Arena. An already lively part of town doubled with activity after the dust settled on the new construction.

The buildings in the foreground are historic with an infill project to the right

The buildings in the foreground are historic with an infill project to the right

I ran south to my old neighborhood where I lived in a 1920s white bungalow for five years during college. At first it seemed the neighborhood had not changed since I left three years ago, but as I moved past my old house I saw the first sign. An old 2-story house that sat vacant for years was now a grassy vacant lot. On South Street, what was once a local grocery store was now a landscaped yard with parking. Across the street, the anchor tenant on the shopping center I used to frequent, Blockbuster, was missing. In just three years, the neighborhood was almost unrecognizable. Luckily, Zesto's Ice Cream stand was still standing (a summer favorite for me and my husband).

My old street (8th Street) with the white bungalow in the background

My old street (8th Street) with the white bungalow in the background

The last leg of my journey was through the historic district along Sheridan Boulevard. The neighborhood is filled with large mansions, sitting alongside the occasional 1-story house. The large boulevard is reminiscent of St. Anthony Parkway in Minneapolis. If only Lincoln would upgrade the sidewalk to an 8 foot wide trail like on St. Anthony Parkway.

While running 14 miles the day I had to host a bridal shower and walk around the Haymarket all night is not ideal, it did give me the opportunity to explore at ground level the areas I used to see daily. Being removed from a city lets you see all the changes that you normally would not notice. In a very short time Lincoln has managed to reinvent itself in the hopes of drawing in and maintaining families and young professionals. If I had not found Minneapolis, I myself might be drawn back to the home of the Huskers.