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Board President Cliff Dill's remarks from the Groundbreaking Ceremony

It’s hard for me to believe that this day has finally come. I think it was in February 2001 at a weekend board retreat that we first talked about in earnest, and decided that one of our goals would be to build an education center. We envisioned it to be located somewhere along the Platte River, but had no idea of exactly where. That commitment was pretty scary then, and it’s still a little scary today (although much less so).

The idea of a center for education existed in Bill Whitney’s mind long before that retreat because it is part of our 1980 Charter.

This will not be just a building. It will become the Prairie Plains Education Center on the Platte River. It will become the home base of SOAR (Summer Orientation About Rivers), our award winning nature day camp for grade school kids that just completed its 15th successful year. It will also become a place for kids, families, artists, scientists, naturalists, community organizations and many, many others to learn, study, write, paint, teach and be inspired.

With this structure and the people and programs that will make it great, many exciting events, opportunities and experiences will come forth. It pleases me greatly to know that the inspirations we gain from those experiences will be passed on to future generations.

Many of us are lucky to have been graced with an appreciation of this land and its heritage. It amazes me, knowing the profound effect mankind has had on the appearance of much of this planet over the past few hundred years, that as we look out on this bluff today, other than a power line, a few fences, several introduced weed species and an abundance of trees along the river, this bluff looks very similar to what it looked like 100 or even 2 or 300 years ago.

Prairie Plains is a grass roots organization. It’s the most grass roots organization I have ever known or experienced. After receiving their education, Bill and Jan returned to their hometown of Aurora. Somehow a spark was kindled and the idea of Prairie Plains began to take form. Over the intervening 26 years since its inception, Bill and Jan have invested their lives in this organization in more ways than most of us will ever know.

As much as we owe to Bill and Jan for their tireless efforts over those 26 years, PPRI is more than just its founders. It’s an organization of people, many people. We’re made up of our membership, our supporters and our friends. And, it’s only through the commitment, efforts and monies of these people and groups that our organization has survived and flourished.

To my wife Jeanne and I, the measurement of the effectiveness of this grass roots organization is best realized kid by kid, farmer by farmer, bird by bird, rancher by rancher, wildflower by wildflower, seed by seed and acre by acre. This building, for which we break ground today, is a monument to all those individual efforts.

Prairie Plains Resource Institute is about planting seeds, both in a literal and symbolic sense. It’s about bringing people and communities together and celebrating the land and the heritage of the people who have lived worked and played here. I have a marvelous image in my mind from the first Prairie Festival that we celebrated here on PPRI’s 25th anniversary about a year and a half ago. On a Friday evening in May, over 300 people gathered and wandered these bluffs. The most common remark I heard was “I didn’t know anything like this existed!” Through this building and with the help of you and many, many others, we will help countless others to realize not only that this wonderful place does exist, but to gain a greater understanding of why it is here, what can be done to preserve it, and hopefully to be inspired by it.

With one exception, I’m not going to mention any individuals, but I would like to thank the Nebraska Environmental Trust for their generous grant that allowed us to purchase the property. I’d like to thank the Hamilton Community Foundation for its grant that allows us to move the roof of an existing local barn onto our new foundation. I’d also like to thank all those volunteers who help us with the stewardship of this land. I’d especially like to thank Mert Griffith for his ongoing help in all aspects of this marvelous piece of land.

I’d like to thank you all for being here today and for seeing the value of our vision. We need people like you to continue to invest your energies, spirits and dollars for the benefit of our and future generations.

Thank you,
Clifford Dill
President, Board of Directors
Prairie Plains Resource Institute

Prairie Plains
Resource Institute

1307 L Street
Aurora, NE 68818
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