Omaha Gets Down To Earth

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Omaha's annual Earth Day observance at Elmwood Park includes several new additions this year including a farmer's market and chance to climb the newly crowned state champion white swamp oak tree.

The towering white swamp oak, directly east of Elmwood Park, was just named the new, state champion of its species. It stole the title from a Lincoln area tree based on measurements and overall health of both trees.

From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, anyone age 9 and up can climb it with the help of professional climbers as well as ropes and harnesses.

“We encourage people to come out and be involved with nature, and this is an opportunity to get really up close and personal with trees and engage with them on a different level, literally a different level,” says Earth Day Omaha chairman Eric Williams.

Plan at least 30-minutes if you want to climb. National group Tree Climbing Planet will assist climbers with the help of the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum. There's expected to be an aerial drone taking photos as people climb.

The west end of the park will feature local producers at the first Earth Day farmers market. Williams told WOWT, "It's still early in the season, but they've been out there working with hoop houses and greenhouses and getting some early season greens ready to buy."

Williams says the sale of fresh, local food already this spring should be a good way to encourage people to start growing and producing their own items.

Among the other new features at the April 19th event are a slackline course to test your balance between two trees, cups in the beer garden will be composted for the first time, and there will be an area for electronic recycling.

The Dundee Community Garden will lend their new Solar Wireless Electronic Location, commonly called SWEL, to the event. This means wi-fi and eco-friendly charging will be available from the middle of the park.

The festivities include more than 100 vendors, including one ready to show off her new products for the first time in a show setting. Local artist Liz Moldenhauer is the mastermind behind Repieced.

Moldenhauer is giving yard signs and bicycle inner tubes new life, turning them into gift boxes. She makes bows out of magazine pages, gift bags out of newspaper, and gift tags out of everything from maps to sandpaper. She finds her supplies just about anywhere and hopes her products serve as a teaching tool.

"It's a great opportunity for people to see that sustainable items are not necessarily too expensive. They're not outlandish. They can be fun and very usable and that's why I wanted to be part of Earth Day. It's a great celebration."

The official Earth Day event happens from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. though some events start earlier and others happen during only a limited time period. Organizers expect between 5,000 and 8,000 people will attend.