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Visits to every Omaha park a bonding, learning experience for father and son

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Check out six chill spots in Omaha for your next park escape.

OMAHA — Matt Mainelli loves taking his son, Bodhi, to the park by their house.

The swings and monkey bars at the Trendwood neighborhood play area provided the perfect activity for the 4-year-old during the earlier stages of the pandemic when they couldn’t go to the movies or other places.

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Pins on the map mark the parks that Matt Mainelli and son Bodhi have visited.

Then for Christmas, Mainelli received a map of Omaha’s City Parks — and a box of colored push pins — and a whole new world opened up.

“Last weekend, we hit our 70th park this year,” Mainelli said.

Since receiving the map from a friend who works at Keep Omaha Beautiful, the Mainellis are on a quest to visit all of the 237 parks listed on that map.

Then they come home and put a pin on the map, which hangs in the office/play area.

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Matt and Bodhi enjoy their together time at each of their park visits.

“Bodhi gets really excited when we put pins in and mark them off,” Mainelli said. “We’ve bonded over it.”

Mainelli said he thinks it’s extraordinary that Omaha has so many parks. They come in all sizes, and while some are shiny and new and others need upgrading, each has a charm of its own, he said.

They’re spread all over town, with many tucked away in neighborhoods, known only to those who live in the area.

An app called playgroundbuddy has helped them find some of the parks. All seem to offer some type of educational activity, he said.

“Some parks we go to, no one is there. We will play a little bit and go on,” Mainelli said. “Sometimes, there’s a bunch of kids there. Every one is kind of a new adventure.”

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Bodhi and his dad have visited 70 parks since their quest began.

Each weekend, either Bodhi will pick a park to visit or Mainelli will come up with a list so they can knock off more than one. They also might squeeze in a few on the way to Bodhi’s grandparents or to preschool.

Their record is seven in one day. It’s not difficult when there are few people around and they can try out each piece of equipment and then head out. But they always make sure to talk about what they loved before moving on to the next one.

Even Mainelli’s co-workers have become invested.

“When I go to work on Monday, it’s ‘What parks did you hit?’” Mainelli said.

There’s also a backstory to their adventures.

Mainelli, 43, is a first-time, divorced dad who wasn’t sure he was doing things right.

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Park No. 50 with Bodhi. Dad Matt Mainelli said their neighborhood park is still their favorite.

“I always felt like I knew what I was doing at the park,” he said. “I have him half the time. I want to make that my time with him is full of joy and full of life.”

Mainelli thinks that because Bodhi is so young, he’ll continue to enjoy their park visits, which will take another year at least.

When the map is complete, he plans to somehow preserve it so they can look back and enjoy their visits.

“I hope he remembers a really fun time with dad,” Mainelli said. “My hope is he’s falling in love with Omaha throughout the tour.”

 

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