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Upgrades improve experiences at northeast Nebraska state parks

Updated March 17, 2023

Guests at northeast Nebraska state park areas were treated to some improvements in 2022, with more set to be completed in 2023. The following is a roundup of those improvements and projects:

Summit Lake State Recreation Area

Summit Lake State Recreation Area near Tekamah saw aquatic habitat and angler access improvement projects completed to improve the fishery and guests’ experience.

The west and south sediment basins were excavated to restore them to their original capacity and prevent sediment from entering the main reservoir. Angler jetties and the boat ramp also were improved and stabilized, and a kayak launch site was developed.

These improvements cost $1,075,000 and were funded by the Aquatic Habitat Stamp, which is included with a fishing permit.

Other improvements at the lake:

  • The Nebraska Horse Association donated services for a new, 10-mile equestrian trail around the lake.
  • A new playground was built for $175,000 and funded by Burt County Economic Development, Donald E. Nielsen Foundation, and Nebraska Game and Parks.
  • A new maintenance shop was built for $298,000 and funded by the Papio-Missouri Natural Resources District and Game and Parks.

Lewis and Clark State Recreation Area

Campers at Lewis and Clark State Recreation Area near Crofton will find 13 new 50-amp sites with rock surfacing.

The project cost $90,000 and was funded with money from the Capital Maintenance Fund and Nebraska Game and Parks funds.

Eastern red cedar trees also were removed to reduce fuel for wildfires. Game and Parks and a State Wildlife Grant split the cost of $50,000.

Work began in 2022 on the installation of new wastewater lagoons, a new sewer force main, and upgraded sewer lift stations — a $1.5 million project. Funding for the project, which will be completed this year, will come from Nebraska Game and Parks, the Capital Maintenance Fund and the American Rescue Plan Act.

Ponca State Park

In August, Ponca State Park near Ponca became one of three state park areas where Tentrr sites were introduced. Tentrr, which offers ready-to-go camping accommodations at more than 1,000 fully equipped campsites across the country, offers eight single camps and two double camps at Ponca.

Tentrr offers 10-foot by 12-foot canvas wall tents that come with a memory foam mattress, Adirondack chairs and a fire pit. Other amenities include a propane heater and a table with benches. The single sites can hold up to six campers – with two in the safari tent and up to four additional campers in the included pop-up tent. Pets are allowed at most sites.

Tentrr also has sites at Louisville State Recreation Area and Sherman Reservoir State Recreation Area.

Willow Creek State Recreation Area

Visitors to Willow Creek State Recreation Area near Pierce are benefiting from the replacement of the 3D targets at the park’s walk-through archery range.

The cost of $2,500 was funded by the Pittman-Robertson Act, a federal excise tax on the sale of firearms and ammunition.

Niobrara State Park

Those wanting to access the Niobrara River from Niobrara State Park will be able to do so when water levels allow after a new water access was built in 2022 in a partnership between Game and Parks and the Nebraska Department of Transportation as part of a larger $150 million project.

The park also took efforts to remove eastern red cedar trees to reduce fuel for wildfires and prevent the harmful spread of trees into Nebraska’s grasslands. Tree removal cost $55,000, a cost shared by the Nebraska Forest Service, State Wildlife Grant and Nebraska Game and Parks.

Fort Atkinson State Historical Park

The Fort Atkinson State Historical Park visitor center near Fort Calhoun is undergoing a renovation at a cost of approximately $650,000. The project, tentatively scheduled to be completed in April with a grand opening this summer, will include replacing displays, lighting, theater seating, a large television, and more.

The project is funded by Nebraska Game and Parks, Fort Atkinson Foundation, Friends of Fort Atkinson, Donald E. Nielsen Foundation, Helmsley Foundation, Fremont Area Community Foundation, private donors, in-kind donors, and the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission Foundation.

Another improvement will include a new park entrance from the road, at a cost of $305,259, which will be covered by the Nebraska State Rec Road Program.

Fremont Lakes State Recreation Area

Construction will begin this year on a new shower facility and dump station at Fremont Lakes State Recreation Area’s Pathfinder Campground. They will replace existing facilities at the campground.

These state park system projects largely have been funded by Capital Maintenance Funds, which were established by the Nebraska Legislature in 2016 to help preserve Nebraska’s public outdoor recreation facilities and parklands; state and federal funding sources; and Nebraska Game and Parks’ funds generated from user fees of the state park system.

About Jerry Kane

Jerry Kane is the news manager with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. He can be contacted at jerry.kane@nebraska.gov or 402-471-5008.

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