Drone technology is being utilized to document and promote the beauty of Chief Standing Bear Trail and the Big Blue River in Blue Springs throughout the seasons.


This project is being coordinated by Jan Morris, Rex Adams, Dean Cole and Dr. Ron Rice in cooperation with the Homestead Conservation and Trail Association to promote the utilization of the Chief Standing Bear Trail. They hope the trail will become not only as a hiking and biking trail but a natural habitat area to be enjoyed by all walks of life. The goal of Morris, Adams and Cole who call themselves “The Springers” is to encourage people young and old alike to come experience the beauty of the Chief Standing Bear Trail, especially along the corridor between the Blue Springs Trailhead and Marysville, KS. “The drone is an excellent tool for us to showcase the area and document our progress throughout the year,” Morris said.

“We are very fortunate that Dr. Ron Rice, who is a physician from Lincoln has volunteered his time and expertise to assist us with this project,” Morris added.

Rice is one the first licensed drone pilots in Nebraska. He is also an instrument rated pilot who has a love for technology and nature especially the Blue Springs Trailhead and Big Blue River area. The drone piloted by Rice, will fly one mile segments of the trail at a maximum altitude of 400 feet allowed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). It has a maximum flight time of 15 minutes per battery life. The drone will provide updated still and video documentation of the corridor during each of the four seasons. Select photos and videos will be displayed on the Chief Standing Bear, Blue Springs Trailhead Facebook Page for all to enjoy and share with others.

“Since there are a lot of projects planned for the Blue Springs Trailhead we felt it was important to have documentation of the progress. The drone gives us a bird’s eye view of the area, which is far better than most still shots from the ground level,” Adams observed.

The Chief Standing Bear Trail incorporates the former Union Pacific railroad right of way from Beatrice to the Nebraska/Kansas state-line which is just over 19 miles. It then connects south of Barneston at the state-line with the Kansas Blue River Rail Trail Network. There are four trailheads to access the trail between Beatrice and Barneston. They are located at Beatrice, Holmesville, Blue Springs and Barneston. They all will have public parking, picnic shelters and restroom facilities in the near future.

“We are so fortunate the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska and the Nebraska Trails Foundation, Inc. have put a lot of their resources into the area to make the trail a reality for us all to enjoy. That is why the Springers are working hard to make the Chief Standing Bear, Blue Springs Trailhead the most utilized and versatile Trailhead in the system,” Cole said.

The Springers hope the Blue Springs Trailhead area will become not only a hiking/biking trail but a corridor where people can appreciate the area’s natural beauty, agriculture, local tourist attractions and histories of early pioneers, Union Pacific Railroad and Native Americans. The first phase of the Springers’ drone documentation work will be focusing on a stretch of trail between River Side Farm and Plum Road.

A number of projects have already been completed at the Blue Springs Trailhead including: crushed rock surface, public picnic shelter, trail signs, barriers to prevent motorized vehicles usage, brush clearing and litter pick up. “This area is not the same area it was a year ago,” Adams said.

Future projects planned at the trailhead are: develop a landscape plan to prepare the area for planting native prairie grass and wildflowers, develop an arboretum south of the shelter, install security lighting, irrigation system, a public restroom and entrance sign. “All of these plans will be prioritized by the availability of funds,” Cole emphasized.

The Springers will be working with the Nebraska Wildlife Federation and Nebraska Master Naturalist Program in planting milkweed and other plants along the corridor to attract butterflies and pollinators. The Nebraska Statewide Arboretum has offered assistance in the coordination and planning of the arboretum which will feature trees native to Nebraska. Since trees have always symbolized a significant meaning and purpose in virtually every culture on earth, the Springers hope to make the arboretum a gathering place for all to enjoy at the trailhead. It is hoped to have a section of the arboretum dedicated as a living memory to individuals who have a love for nature and history.

The Ponca Tribe of Nebraska will be helping with the design and placement of a Medicine Wheel which will be incorporated into the landscape design at the trailhead. The Medicine Wheel served many purposes for the Native People. It was a calendar for tracking the seasons and stars, plus a focus point for ceremonies and life teachings, to name a few. The Wachiska Audubon and Nebraska Game and Parks will be working with the Springers to enhance the area to attract more non-game birds for public viewing along the trail, such as blue birds, eagles, hawks, owls, wood ducks and many other species.

“I have been very impressed already with those have come forward and offered their expertise in developing the trailhead. Clark Plihal a former rural Blue Springs resident and landscape designer who now lives in Shelton, has offered his assistance. Plus, Southeast Community College, Beatrice campus Advanced Landscaping Design students in the Horticulture and Agribusiness Technology program under the direction of Kevin Christiansen will be working with the Springers in designing a landscaping grid plus coordinate plantings for the Blue Springs Trailhead. Like they say ‘if you build it they will come'” Cole said.

“We want the trailhead area to be a place not only for outdoor activities but a place to relax, learn about nature and facilitate education opportunities,” Morris added.

Plans are being made to apply for grants to support the projects which will be completed in increments over a five to ten year period. No local tax dollars are designated to support the Chief Standing Bear, Blue Springs Trailhead development. Fund raisers and donations, plus volunteer help will be needed to achieve the goals. The Springers hope this will become a community project, bringing individuals, schools and organizations together to showcase what positive things can be done when a community works together. Any individual or organization who would like to be involved in this project are asked to contact Dean Cole at: 402-806-8556 or deancole1970@msn.com.

Donations to purchase a tree for the Arboretum or support for the trailhead project should be made out to: Homestead Conservation and Trail Association or (HCTA) with designation to Blue Springs Trailhead. Again you can contact Dean Cole for details. You can find the trail on facebook, by clicking here.

Article written by Dean Cole courtesy of Wymore Arbor State Newspaper – December 1, 2016 Volume 135 Number 18.