Officials surveying the damage left by Missouri River flooding at Omaha-area riverside parks are saying, "What a mess."
Parks officials would not discuss damage estimates until the water fully recedes, but silt and mud are everywhere.
It could be months before many of the parks are ready for normal use.
At Freedom Park in Omaha, some silt mounds stand 6 to 7 feet high, said Brook Bench, Omaha parks maintenance manager. The park's artifacts and naval vessels are filthy with the river's sandy left-behinds.
The tennis court at Big Lake Park in Council Bluffs is similarly mud-covered, said John Batt, assistant city parks director.
Phil Davidson, a spokesman for the city of Bellevue, said Haworth Park looks as though a massive storm just ripped through the area.
"There's damage to roads, buildings, the gazebo and rose trellis," he said. And water is still up to the top of the campground grills, he said.
Another visible change the flood has wrought is tree loss.
The ground at Big Lake Park is severely saturated, so when a storm with strong winds hammered the area in August, some larger trees were uprooted, Batt said.
In Haworth Park, many trees have been damaged by being underwater for so long, Davidson said.
At least the tree report out of N.P. Dodge Park was positive.
Folks had feared that the water would suffocate the tree roots and that the standing water would add to tree instability, resulting in massive losses.
"Yes, we've lost some trees — they were old and already damaged — but a lot look fine," Bench said. "It's not complete doom and gloom."
Bench said of both Freedom and Dodge Parks: "It looks pretty good for how deep and how long the water was there."
Crews could clear out the massive silt piles once the parks dry, Bench said. Batt would like to pump out the remaining water and hope to begin reseeding some areas this fall.
Davidson hopes to get a look at playground areas and work with an environmental group to ensure safety before reopening.
It is going to take quite a bit of time and cleaning to get the parks back in safe and working order, officials agreed.
Davidson said it took about a year to repair minor flood damage to Haworth Park in 2010, and the damage this summer is much more extensive.
One bit of good news, though: Lewis & Clark Landing, after it is scraped of dry mud and power-washed, could re-open later this week, Bench said.
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