BEATRICE - The new name of a National Park Unit west of Beatrice was unveiled Wednesday, outside the Heritage Center of what’s now the Homestead National Historical Park.
Congressional approval was given this past year to the move to change the attraction known as a monument, to a historical park. Republican House member Adrian Smith and the other members of Nebraska’s Congressional delegation helped introduce and direct the legislation to passage in the House and Senate.
"We can preserve some history, right in the midst of productive agricultural activity. Support of the community, I think, is so vital. I've grown up in the shadow, literally, of Scottsbluff National Monument and the community support is so important," Smith said.
The effort to change the name of the park began about ten years ago, led by the Friends of the Homestead, a private support group. Along the way, numerous local government and business officials pitched in to help lobby for the change.
National Park Service Regional Director Herbert Frost said, "This name change is a reflection of each one of you and is a tribute to the support each of you have provided to the park since its inception. It's also an encompassing tribute to all Americans, immigrants, formerly slave men and women and all those who made going westward...as part of the westward expansion a reality for the nation after the passage of the Homestead Act of 1862."
Superintendent of Homestead National Historical Park, Mark Engler says the change in identity not only will help with understanding what the park signifies, but also help provide an economic boost to the area. "Research shows that with such a name change that we could see a change in visitation, and we think will go up, and increase...because people will better understand what we represent, with the story we tell."
The Homestead, four miles west of Beatrice, has a heritage center, an education center and the Freeman School, various artifacts, machinery and displays, and trails throughout the park’s tallgrass prairie.