GAME AND PARKS CLOSING 29 SITES SEPT-MAY

Posted 8 months ago

By John Axtell

Nebraska Games and Parks LogoThe Nebraska Game and Parks Commission is closing 24 state recreation areas (SRA) and five state historical parks (SHP) for the fall, winter, and spring in cost-cutting move.

Three of the SRAs that will close September 16 and reopen May 1 are in the Panhandle: Walgren Lake southeast of Hay Springs, Cottonwood near Merriman, and Oliver Reservoir west of Kimball. Ash Hollow SHP near Lewellen will also close for that period.

Game and Parks Director Jim Douglas says all the sites being closed have relatively light use except in the summer, so closing them the rest of the year will shift funds toward reduce more than $30 million dollars in deferred maintenance  as well as ADA and environmental mandates.

Douglas says the “temporary closure of parks and the redirection of staff to priority projects is one more step in an effort to address the funding challenges of the Nebraska State Park System.”

He blames the lack of a sustainable funding source for the transfer of 8 park areas to cities, counties or other entities; privatization and consolidation of several park operations; and the elimination of 43 permanent park positions…nearly 20% of the total workforce…over the past 5 years.

Douglas calls the new seasonal closings “a necessary management decision that is difficult to make, but Game and Parks is running out of options.”

He says the agency hopes the public and park visitors will understand it’s doing everything possible to shore up infrastructure and meet mandates for accessibility and environmental compliance

A bill currently in the Nebraska legislature would increase funding for state parks by replacing the current Park Entry Permit system with a $7 charge on the state motor vehicle registration fee.

The other SRAs that will close Sept. 16 are: Blue River, Cheyenne, Conestoga, Dead Timber, DLD, Keller, Long Lake, Long Pine, North Loup, Olive Creek, Pelican Point, Riverview Marina, Rock Creek Lake, Sandy Channel, Schramm, Sutherland, Union Pacific, Verdon, Stagecoach, and War Axe.

Vehicle access to boat ramps will remain open at Riverview, Pelican Point and Sutherland’s Hershey Beach.

Buffalo Bill, and Fort Hartsuff SHPs will close September 16, with the Arbor Lodge SHP in Nebraska City closing a week later following the Applejack Festival. Arbor Lodge will also open a week earlier on April 23 for its annual Arbor Day celebration.

Also closing later are Fort Atkinson SHP, which will stay open through its annual living history weekend October 5-6, while concessionaire services will keep Alexandria SRA open until October 7.