Cleanup has begun at flooded metro-area parks along the Missouri River, but it’s not clear when the parks might reopen.
Complicating matters are weekend storms that could dump more rain on the area.
Silt and mud left by flooding needs to be cleared before Omaha’s NP Dodge Park, Bellevue’s Haworth Park and Council Bluffs’ Tom Hanafan River’s Edge Park can be reopened to the public.
Parks directors for the three cities said that cleanup may be stalled or prolonged by the rain that is forecast for north of Omaha. That makes it difficult for the directors to predict when their parks could reopen.
“You tell me what the water’s going to do in the next four to five days, and I can tell you that,” said Larry Foster, the parks, recreation and public property director for Council Bluffs.
Foster said cleanup has begun at Tom Hanafan River’s Edge Park, adding that the design of the park’s walkways and roads allow for expedited cleanup. The walkways and roads were built to allow tractors and trucks with blades to remove silt without turf damage. He also said the park’s layout prevented the great lawn, where events are held, from getting soaked.
At NP Dodge Park, some cleanup has begun, but most of the work can’t be performed until river levels drop about a foot, said Omaha Parks and Recreation Director Brook Bench. The timetable for the park’s reopening depends on the weather over the next few days, he said.
“We hope to have it open in the next couple weeks, but so much depends on the weather and the rain,” Bench said. “If they get heavy rains and storms this weekend, and the river goes back up, it will probably be easier to keep it closed while we’re doing the cleanup.”
With water still high in the parking lot and the soccer fields in bad shape, including some still under standing water, Bench said much of the park just isn’t ready for use.
Some of the cleanup, including silt removal, can be done even with water in the park. But problems with electrical lines can’t be addressed until the water levels drop. Until then, they pose a hazard.
For these and other reasons, parks officials are working at keeping sightseers and others out of the parks.
“We get so many people that want to come in,” he said. “That just gets in the way of the cleanup. We don’t want anybody even playing on the fields right now because they’re so fragile.”
The situation at Haworth Park mirrors those at the other parks. Parks Superintendent Brian Madison said cleanup is set to begin Monday “barring any rain up north causing additional flooding.”