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Fort Robinson mare barn complex getting a new life

Mare Barn

Members of the American Paint Horse Association set out from the Mare Barn Complex in September 2013. State Park.

CRAWFORD — Visitors who camp with their horses at Fort Robinson State Park are expected to enjoy upgrades and repairs to the mare barn complex.

Park superintendent Jim Miller said the wooden Mare Barn, which stands at the west side of the park’s main campus with a narrow 20,000-square-foot 300-yard-long C-shaped footprint, has been getting an upgrade from the ground up this winter.

Constructed during Fort Robinson’s period of developing and supplying horses for the U.S. Cavalry in the early 20th century, the barn now provides horse stalls for park visitors who stay at the adjacent 22-stall campground to the west.

Miller said equestrian tourism is gaining popularity, and the repairs and improvements will solidify Fort Robinson’s standing as a premier destination for horseback riders. Completion is expected by early May.

“These are one-of-a-kind buildings. I am not aware of any others in the country,” Miller said, noting that they tie the Fort’s history to modern times. “Our guests will enjoy this upgrade.”

The project’s contractor, Hackel Construction of Ord, is replacing the sill plate and studs in rotted areas and jacking the structure to straighten its ridgeline. The building also is getting new siding, shingles and sidewalk. New siding and shingles also are in the works for the Mare Barn Annex, the 3,500-square-foot building located at the center of the stables and available for meetings and other activities.

The 309 Task Force for Building Renewal, a division of the Nebraska Department of Administrative Services, awarded the funding for the project.

Kelcie Mowrey, who works at the front office at Fort Robinson, said the stables were important for the production of horses in their original role, and the buildings are among the last standing structures from the Fort Robinson’s Army Remount Depot era, 1919-1945.

The breeding program began in 1920 with 125 broodmares from Fort Keogh in Montana. The program took several years to develop, but gained a reputation for producing high quality colts for cavalry and artillery purposes.

Mowrey said the stables were built in 1928 to aid in the monitoring and supervision of the broodmares, a task in which only a select few of the most experienced enlisted men were assigned. The soldiers began halter breaking when colts were just 3 months old and the horses’ feet were given particular attention. As yearlings, their hooves were trimmed to prevent crooked feet.

In addition to the Mare Barn stables, two identical sets were built nearby to the north.

“One was purposed for yearlings and the other for 2- and 3-year-olds to better control and train the colts as they aged,” she said.

Those two stables were dismantled, along with many other buildings, after the U.S. Army abandoned the grounds and the USDA established its Beef Research Center at Fort Robinson in the late 1940s.

In other news

LINCOLN — While Community Fishing Nights will not be offered to the public this summer, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission has several online resources to help anglers of all experience levels.

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected all of us in one way or another. We have been staying at home for the most part with trips pretty much only being made to the grocery store, gas station or nearby trail for exercise.

LINCOLN — The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission is accepting grant applications to promote outdoor recreation facilities and amenities for political subdivision parks and outdoor recreation areas through the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

LINCOLN — Nebraskans will enjoy this summer boating on waters across the state. Last week marked National Safe Boating Week, May 16-22, 2020, and the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission urged boaters to keep safety the top priority. Boaters and paddlers should not take safety for granted. Gam…

Camping will be allowed again on a first-come, first-served basis starting Friday, May 22, at Smith Falls State Park, 35 state recreation areas and wildlife management areas, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission has announced.

June outdoor calendar

LINCOLN, Neb. – The following is a listing of Nebraska Game and Parks Commission important dates in June.

June 1 – Underwater spearfishing season begins at Box Butte Reservoir and on private waters

June 1-30 – Archery paddlefish season

June 5 – Final day landowners may apply for one elk permit

June 8-26 – Residents and nonresidents may apply for one deer permit in any draw unit

June 8-26 – Residents may apply for one elk permit

June 8-26 – Residents and eligible landowners may apply for one buck or either-sex antelope permit in available units.

June 19 – Nebraska Game and Parks Commission meeting, Lincoln

In a proactive effort to prevent the potential for spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), Game and Parks has cancelled all agency-sponsored events scheduled through June 30, with the possibility of an extension. Game and Parks aims to protect its staff, customers and communities by limiting our events that create opportunities for crowds to gather at facilities.

Keep up to date on all cancellations, postponements and closures for Game and Parks at Visit for updates on Game and Parks’ events.