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Rowe Sanctuary reflects on time closed, looks ahead with hope

Attraction lost most of its peak season due to COVID-19
Published: Jul. 9, 2020 at 9:57 AM CDT
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GIBBON, Neb. (KSNB) - Rowe Sanctuary relies on tourists throughout the year, especially during its peak “season” when the Sandhill Cranes line the banks of the Platte River.

This year tourists got just one week of Crane viewing as COVID-19 forced Rowe to close its doors in early March. Shortly after, trails reopened for visitors but without viewing stations and the main building, open Rowe suffered another year of a financial hit.

In 2019 the Sanctuary had flooded roads and flood-related damage which shut the location down for about half of the season.

“It’s been two years in a row that’s been pretty rough on income,” Bill Taddicken, the Director at Rowe Sanctuary, said.

Rowe has plans to reopen its main building on Monday, July 13 with reduced hours, a mask requirement, and a recommendation that social distancing be enforced. The Director says this entire situation is a learning process and, if need be, Rowe is prepared to re-close its doors if things worsen in regard to the coronavirus.

“Reopening is worrisome but we’re going to go slow, we’re going to take it easy and if things turn around and go the wrong way we’ll close down for everybody’s safety,” Taddicken said.

The Sanctuary has been developing online resources to continue getting its mission to the public including an online camp that brings users daily activities and programs that people can interact with on their own at Rowe. The staff is also analyzing how it could potentially host events in the near future.

“With all these numbers rising all around us for cases, the future is so unclear,” Taddicken said.

Rowe brings in about 30,000 people each year from all 50 states and a handful of countries. It also serves about 5,000 students through programs and field trips; all of which were lost this year due to the temporary closure. Taddicken said Rowe also missed out on roughly $250,000 of revenue yet still managed to be in a stable spot financially.

Staff returned Monday and Taddicken is still trying to figure out how many volunteers may be lost due to worries over COVID-19.

The new hours will be 10 a.m. - 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Copyright 2020 KSNB. All rights reserved.

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