GERING — With phase one construction almost completed, city staff and volunteers descended on the Gering Civic Plaza early Wednesday morning to place shrubs, flowers and trees. It the latest phase of an idea that began years ago to build a downtown space for use for a wide variety of activities.

The design for the space was developed in 2018 by Chrissy Land, community forestry specialist with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Nebraska Forest Service IANR.

“I saw the space as an outdoor extension of the neighboring Gering Civic Center,” Land said. It’s a different concept than a traditional park. "It’s not wide open from all angles and you can’t run across it.”

Some of the recently completed structural features include new bathroom facilities, patio area, antique-style lighting, retaining walls and a terraced grassy area for concert seating. Construction of the stage area should be completed this year.

Because it is a greenspace, trees and other landscaping are a prominent part of the plaza design. People started showing up at about 6 a.m. on Sept. 11 in a light drizzle to help with the planting process.

“The fall is actually the best time of the year for planting trees and shrubs,” Land said. “As the trees start shutting down for the season, they’re putting all their energy into the root system. We want the roots to get established over the winter so they’re situated and ready to grow when spring comes around.”

Other elements in the plaza are scheduled for next season, including a fireplace, a fire pit, a water feature, seating and benches.

Land said when the plaza project was first proposed, she thought she would be assisting and learning along the way.

“I was fresh out of college with a landscape design degree,” she said. “I also had some experiences in landscape management from my grandfather’s greenhouse, so I wanted to put that knowledge to the test and show what I’d learned.”

She started jotting down some ideas and the city liked what they were seeing, so Land became the designer.

“We reached out to as many public groups as we could to get their ideas,” she said. “We wanted the small space to be as purposeful as possible for it can serve many purposes.”

Retired Gering dentist George H. Schlothauer was a member of the Gering Downtown Revitalization Committee when the city received state grant funding to help with downtown improvements. One of the proposed projects was the Gering City Plaza.

“We’re extremely happy with the way it turned out,” Schlothauer said. “Chrissy had a vision of how she thought it should be done and her final design was exactly what we wanted.”

He said the people of Gering will be proud to show it off as a community gathering place.

“People have embraced it and have been impressed with the way it came together,” he said.

Gering Parks Director Amy Seiler said it was amazing how far they’ve come since construction began in March.

“The space was a mud hole with a funny looking blue building when the construction crew got started,” she said. “It’s been really fun to see people stopping by and watching how the plaza has evolved in a short time. This is going to be a very usable space for the public.”

Seiler said there are always opportunities for the public to get involved with phase two finishing touches like benches and bistro tables. She invited interested people to contact her at the City of Gering for more information.

A formal ribbon cutting and dedication of the Gering Civic Plaza has been scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 15, at 2 p.m. The event will include the siting of a plaque and a time capsule. The public is invited to attend.

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Jerry Purvis is a reporter with the Star-Herald. He can be reached at 308-632-9046 or emailed at jpurvis@starherald.com.

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