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Van Dorn Park

The Indian Village Neighborhood Association is actively working to reconnect our neighborhood to Van Dorn Park and revitalize one of Lincoln's oldest parks, which is located on the west side of Indian Village.

Van Dorn Park in the News

Keep Van Dorn Park Public

Lincoln Parks & Recreation has been storing maintenance materials (mulch, soil, manure) in the park for more than a decade. Van Dorn Park deserves better. Let's reclaim our public space and return the west side of the park to public acres meant for enjoyment! Please write to city officials and ask for material storage to be moved out of Van Dorn Park!

Background on Van Dorn Park

Background information provided by Diane Walkowiak, Indian Village Neighbor and Van Dorn Park
Enthusiast and Historian


In 1870, William Tolbert Van Dorn, an Indiana native, purchased 10 acres, which 50 years later would become the foundation of the current 28-acre Van Dorn Park at Ninth and Van Dorn streets. Mr. Van Dorn and his family operated a nursery on their land.  After he passed away in Chicago in 1918, his land was donated to Lincoln by his heirs for use as a public park.

By the 1930s, Van Dorn Park was the place to picnic and play by individuals, families, and groups. The city added horseshoe pits and tennis courts, shelters and swing sets. Van Dorn Park gradually grew larger, with the last expansion in 1961, when George Holmes donated $100,000 to purchase land southwest of the park. The city kept improving the park — adding a skating slab, mini library branch, restroom, and a second playground. A picnic in 1973 drew 200 people.

But roads continued to encroach on the park. In the 1940s, 10th street was extended through the east side of the park, and in the late fifties 9th street was angled over to parallel 10th. In the early nineties, a four-lane bypass between Nebraska 2 and U.S. 77 was created along the park’s northern border, narrowly avoiding an earlier plan to dip into the north side of the park. Highway 2 truck traffic was now routed along the north and east of the park. In 2008, left turn lanes were added to northbound 10th Street, resulting in the removal of 33 trees.

The addition of the highway and multiple lanes of traffic with no pedestrian crossing essentially cut Van Dorn Park off from its surrounding neighborhoods.

The popularity of Van Dorn Park declined as traffic increased on Highway 2 and accessibility became an issue, and as people experienced an expanding choice of parks and entertainment options. Over the years, Van Dorn Park lost most of its amenities, retaining only a rental shelter and two swingsets.

Recent efforts have added a new playground, drinking fountain, mountain bike trail, and a beautifying pollinator project to the park, which also includes a popular rental shelter and the Bison Trail trailhead. Supportive fundraising efforts were led by the Indian Village Neighborhood Association (IVNA).


IVNA continues to work with the city on accessibility to the park now that the South Beltway is completed. Efforts are also underway to remove a city materials storage area from the west side of the park, to restore those acres to their intended public use.

Van Dorn Park Gallery

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