Exploring nature — and the power company?

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A perfect slice of nature exists in the heart of Omaha.

Since opening in 2004, OPPD’s Arboretum has been an attraction for anyone wanting to enjoy the outdoors without having to leave the city. The Arboretum, at 108th and Blondo streets, near Interstate 680, has proved popular for educational hikes, dog-walkers and group get-togethers.

The 26-acre site was created to educate visitors as to what trees and shrubs are best planted around overhead and buried power lines, where to plant them and how landscape plantings are important for energy conservation. There is also educational signage throughout the site which explains the different plants and shows how they look mature.

“The original purpose was for our customers to come out and see the different kinds of trees and which ones to plant near lines,” said David Walsh, utility Forester. “Over the years it has evolved into a place where a lot of photographers come. We want to make it as nice as possible for the people who come here. This is a good place to come out and relax in the city.”

If you go, make sure to bring your camera. The beautiful scenery is a hidden gem for area photographers looking for that perfect backdrop for senior pictures, wedding photos or shots of the little ones.

ARBORETUM MAPThe Arboretum is open from dusk to dawn year-round and is a Nebraska Statewide Arboretum affiliate site.

There are two miles of walking trails and an outdoor classroom that seats about 30 students. The area is vibrant and colorful, particularly in spring and fall. There are two acres of native grasses and wildflowers and 16 acres of formal planting/turf area. Between camera clicks or a jog on the woodchip trails, visitors can also learn a little.

Students from Metropolitan and Iowa Western Community colleges occasionally hold classes and the tree-trimming companies OPPD contracts with also hold training sessions at the Arboretum, Walsh said.

The site, believed to be the nation’s first large-scale, utility-owned arboretum, easily sees about 150 to 200 people on a weekend day when the weather’s nice, Walsh said.

Explore OPPD’s Arboretum, either in-person or via our photo galleries. One of the city’s most scenic spots is just a short drive away and is located close to the interstate for easy access for out of town visitors.

Photo caption: Inside the Arboretum are more than 200 types of shrubs and more than 200 different tree species, all kept pruned and well-manicured by OPPD professionals.
Photo caption: Inside the Arboretum are more than 200 types of shrubs and more than 200 different tree species, all kept pruned and well-manicured by OPPD professionals.

Arboretum Areas of Interest

  • Electrical Education Area: Provides a demonstration of the trimming methods used by OPPD’s Forestry Department when pruning trees away from power lines. Also includes examples of tree/shrub species that can be planted adjacent to power lines.
  • Substation Overlook: Explains the parts of the substation and how each part functions.
  • Transmission Line Demonstration: Offers a walk-through of a transmission right-of-way to see the vegetation management practices OPPD uses to eliminate unwanted vegetation and promote the growth of desirable plants that attract wildlife.
  • Shelterbelt, Wildlife and Erosion: Contains tree and shrub plantings designed to attract wildlife and provide examples of soil and wind conservation measures through erosion control and windbreaks.
  • Formal Planting Area: Emphasizes planting the right tree in the right place to avoid future tree/power line hazards. Visitors can see the types of trees that can be planted adjacent to power lines.
  • Outdoor Classroom: Provides a classroom within a forested area surrounded by native tree species and connected to a hard-surfaced trail system.
Jason Kuiper

About Jason Kuiper

Jason Kuiper joined OPPD as a communications specialist in 2015. He formerly worked as a staff writer and reporter at the Omaha World-Herald.

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