NORTH PLATTE, Neb. — Recreation activities at Sutherland Reservoir that had been closed to the public since mid-September have reopened.
“The state recreation area is operating as normal,” said Kirk Nelson, west regional manager of the parks division for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. “The Nebraska Public Power District is providing us with financial assistance so it can stay open.”
The attraction was one of about 30 across Nebraska that closed Sept. 16. It was part of a plan by Game and Parks to reduce more than $30 million worth of backlogged maintenance and bring the state into compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act and environmental regulations.
The goal was to use staff from the closed areas to upgrade water systems, electrical distribution systems and other infrastructure at state parks.
The impact was that no camping or entrance to buildings was allowed at Sutherland Reservoir. The only access to a boat ramp was at the Hershey Beach.
“NPPD owns that reservoir, and we felt that it should remain open to the public,” said Mark Becker, media relations specialist for the NPPD. “We have authorized about $6,000 to keep restrooms open, for boat dock management and for litter control.”
Had NPPD not stepped forward, the recreation area would have remained closed until May 1. It will now be cared for by one full-time employee, who will also oversee Lake Maloney.
“That's another example of how this can work,” Nelson said. “Communities can either take over some aspects of the attractions themselves, or we can give them the cost, and they can pay for operating expenses.”
Numerous towns are doing just that. Nelson said Nebraska City assumed control of activities that would have otherwise been canceled at the Arbor Lodge State Historical Park.
Similarly, the village of Long Pine took over the Long Pine State Recreation Area and the village of Merriman took over the Cottonwood Lake State Recreation Area.
“Local participation is the theme we want to see at all these areas,” Nelson said. “But we also have to stick to our guns as far as the message is concerned. We just can't keep going the way we have been.”