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Bicentennial Cascade Fountain

cascade fountain


Built in 1978, the fountain is the result of a collaboration between the Lincoln Area Retired Teachers Association (now Lincoln Area Retired School Personnel) and Lincoln Parks and Recreation to commemorate the nation’s Bicentennial. The fountain was dedicated to Nebraska Retired Teachers by the Nebraska State Retired Teachers Association and the City of Lincoln Parks and Recreation.

“Like the water of a fountain flowing endlessly on, the work of a teacher affects eternity.”
Inscription on the commemorative bronze plaque at the site

In 1973, the Nebraska Retired Teachers Association (NRTA) embarked on an effort to commemorate the nation’s Bicentennial with a goal to make a lasting and meaningful contribution to the city. In collaboration with the Lincoln Parks and Recreation Department, the decision was made to raise money to build a fountain.

Fundraising efforts were creative and widespread, including door-to-door canvassing, public events, and Table Festivals hosted by prominent Lincolnites, such as then Mayor Helen Boosalis, Senator Shirley Marsh, and Patricia Exon, First Lady of Nebraska. Donations from the Lincoln Foundation and the Nebraska American Revolution Bicentennial Commission also helped in the NRTA’s efforts.

By February of 1977, arrangements were finalized to begin construction for the Cascade Fountain. It was a triumph on part of the NRTA, who had taken the fountain on as a special bicentennial project. A projected date of completion for the fountain was set on October 1, 1977.

What the hopeful city and retired teachers did not see coming were roadblocks upon roadblocks between their dream and their reality.

From the start, the initial construction of the fountain was behind schedule. A construction workers’ strike completely halted production throughout most of the summer. By the end of August, only around a month before the projected completion date, the Cascade Fountain was only 65 percent complete. Parks and Recreation Director Don Smith officially announced that the Cascade Fountain would now be completed two weeks after the original October 1 completion date.

Finally, in the summer of 1978, the Bicentennial Cascade Fountain, located at S. 27th Street and Capitol Parkway, was completed and dedicated to retired teachers throughout Nebraska.

After 40 years, the Cascade Fountain was experiencing significant wear and tear. The mineral-stained concrete structure was no longer its pristine white. The ductile iron pipe that supplies the fountain’s water is corroded and will fail in the future. Current Director of Lincoln Parks and Recreation, Lynn Johnson stressed the need to refurbish or reconstruct the area. The public was alerted of the need to consider alternative options for the fountain, along with different options for improvements.

Critical Enhancements

In 2018, Lincoln Parks & Recreation enlisted the help of Schemmer and Waterline Studios fountain design experts to perform an engineering analysis on the fountain. The firm identified a number of critical issues with the fountain and provided recommendations for repair. The issues include:

  • The fountain’s piping and electrical unit has significant corrosion.
  • Overspray of fountain water has resulted in cracking of the surrounding concrete sidewalks.
  • There is poor water circulation of the basin to the south.
  • Mechanical equipment (which is mostly original) does not allow for efficient operation of the fountain which increases electrical use.
  • The lighting at the fountain is no longer working.
  • The once white fountain surface is now stained due to minerals in the untreated water.
  • Skateboard use on the fountain has damaged the edge of the fountain basin walls.
  • Accessing the equipment pit does not meet safety codes.
  • Drains around the fountain frequently clog due to grass clippings and other debris.
  • Water level sensor is susceptible to scum build-up which makes it inoperable.
  • There is no filtration or sanitation system. Water treatment is manually performed.
The engineering report provided several recommendations for repairs along with estimated costs. The overall estimated cost for refurbishment is $900,000. Costs of repairs and/or renovation would be funded by a private campaign and a challenge grant at the Lincoln Parks Foundation.

Community Survey

The online survey includes information and conceptual designs for four possible options for the fountain and asks the public to rate their opinions on each of the options. The survey will take approximately 7-9 minutes and is available online from June 27-July 27. Those residents without access to a computer can take the survey at one of Lincoln City library branches.

Renderings of possible options

Cascade Fountain Concepts

Current Fountain Renovation

Concept 1 consists of refurbishing the existing fountain mechanical systems and basin, replacing concrete walking surfaces and redefining planting areas. This concept keeps the original visions for the site intact while adding the needed infrastructure repairs and mechanical building to safely and efficiently operate the fountain

Fountain Renovation with Plaza

Concept 2 consists of reducing the size of the existing basin, replacing concrete walking surfaces and introducing an informal plaza defined by tree planters. This concept adapts to and frames the iconic fountain while adding the needed infrastructure repairs and mechanical building to safely and efficiently operate the fountain.

Community Plaza and Splash Pad

Concept 3 consists of replacing the fountain with multiple alternative amenities. This concepts allows for a new activities by introducing a centralized large covered space, a variety of seating and an interactive water play experience.

Community Greenhouse

Concept 4 consists of replacing the fountain with an alternate amenity. This concepts allows for a centralized hub for the Antelope Triangle tying together the Rotary Strolling Garden, Hamann Rose Garden, and Sunken Gardens. This concepts depicts a volunteer run facility with seasonal plant displays and gardening related classes and programs. Flanking the conservatory to the south would be outdoor display gardens.

Funding and Park Updates

Project updates will occur periodically. Please check back in the future!

For more information or to get involved, contact the Lincoln Parks Foundation, or 402-441-8258.