Ten miles of trails and 42 new RV pads will be added to northwest Omaha’s Cunningham Lake as part of a nearly $15 million recreation improvement project, officials announced Thursday.

The 10 miles of trails would be split between a 6-mile concrete multipurpose trail that loops around the lake and another 4-mile grass equestrian and nature trail.

The park’s campground already has 41 RV pads. They will be upgraded and a new campground will be built consisting of 42 camp pads, a restroom/shower house and water, sewer and electrical hookups at each campsite.

The privately donated funds also will help cover labor costs.


The lake is being drained to kill off invasive species. When it reopens, visitors will again have a spot to have fun or relax, as seen at top when the lake was full.

The 337-acre lake and the 1,050-acre park around it have been closed since April. They will remain closed for construction until fall 2020.

The property is owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers but run by the city. It sits between State Street and Nebraska Highway 36 and 84th and 96th Streets.

Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert, Omaha Parks and Recreation Director Brooks Bench and Omaha District Corps of Engineers Commander Col. John Hudson announced the project at a Thursday morning press conference at the lake.

Anonymous private donors who wanted to invest in Cunningham Lake offered to help the city make the improvements, officials said.

Bench said he expects construction to begin later this summer and wrap up in about 18 months.

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The multipurpose trail is to be done in about a year, he said, but the park won’t reopen until construction is complete on all projects. That’s because of safety concerns with mud in the lake and the construction work, he said.

Bench also touched on a bigger goal: to connect the new lake trail to the Keystone Trail, something the city has eyed for some time. A diagram labeled “Keystone Trail Expansion” was propped up at the morning’s announcement.

“Our long-term goal would be to have the trail all the way around Lake Cunningham connected to Democracy Park,” Bench said, referring to the northern trailhead of the Keystone Trail at 87th and Fort Streets. “That’s going to take us a bit of time, but that’s our ultimate goal.”

After construction wraps up on the Cunningham Lake projects in fall 2020, Bench said construction will work “backwards” from Cunningham Lake to the 90th and Fort area to connect to the Keystone Trail.


Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert, left, speaks during a press conference as Brook Bench, Omaha’s parks director, listens.

The park around Cunningham Lake has been closed for six weeks to allow the lake to be drained to kill two invasive species in the lake — zebra mussel and common carp. The draining began in October. By November, the lake was nearly 20 feet lower.

The park was open for visitors during the winter.

But over a four-day span in March, a mix of rain, snowmelt and frozen ground resulted in significant runoff into the lake, and the lake’s water levels rose significantly. This delayed a final fish kill.

The city later closed the park to keep people from walking through mud in the empty reservoir.