By Stacy Wemhoff
The day before Jim Kluck died, he stopped by the home of Bruce and M.J. Hart near Cozad.
The arborist and owner of Dublin Nursery of Schuyler visited his long-time friends and gave them some trees before continuing on his journey to Colorado, where he was killed in an auto accident on June 22, 2007.
"He was such a kind, gentle soul who did everything to make the world a better place," said M.J. Hart.
Hart serves on the Dawson County Fair Board. When the Nebraska State Arboretum site at the county's fairground was named in honor of a retiring Extension agent, Hart realized Kluck deserved the same honor.
Kluck served as the unpaid curator of the Railside Green in Schuyler from its beginning in 1988 until his death.
"Jim was really proud of it," Hart said.
She contacted city clerk Mary Peschel to pass on the idea of changing its name to honor Kluck.
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Improvements to Schuyler's Railside Green, a Nebraska Statewide Arboretum site, were recommended in Schuyler's 2004 comprehensive plan and again in the 2010 Downtown Revitalization Plan.
Kem Cavanah, coordinator of the Schuyler Development Co., said the Downtown Revitalization Committee has been systematically working through priorities from that 2010 plan.
The Railside Green enhancement was not on the top of that list, but Cavanah said the opportunity to begin that project presented itself when members of the Downtown Revitalization Committee learned about Hart's plans.
Members of that comittee decided it would be a natural fit to merge their enhancement efforts with Hart's renaming plan.
The project, with the goal of increasing usage of the Railside Green by residents and visitors, was approved by the Schuyler City Council on Feb. 21.
"The details of the project will be unveiled as we develop the vision over the next 30 to 60 days," Cavanah said.
The project kickoff and Railside Green renaming will be held on Arbor Day on April 27.
No public funds will be used for the five-year project that has an estimated price tag of almost $74,000.
Enhancements include making the area handicapped-accessible and adding lighting, sidewalks and new trees and shrubs.
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Hart said their acreage in western Nebraska served as a test plot for Kluck, who wanted to see how plants would fare in that part of the state.
But they weren't the only recipients of his generosity.
"It was nothing for him to give away shrubs and trees," she said.
Cavanah also noted Kluck's generosity and pointed out that his legacy to the state is the trees that will be here for generations.
The new name for the Railside Green has not been decided yet. Suggestions can be made by calling the city office at 352-3101.
Hart said Kluck loved Schuyler and enjoyed working and living here.
"He could have had a great business anywhere around the state, but he chose to go back to Schuyler," she said.
She said he would be humbled by the renaming.
"It's a wonderful way for Schuyler to honor one of their favorite sons," she said.