Outdoor enthusiasts have a new place in the metro area to take their dogs, bikes and boats.
Flanagan Lake, a northwest Omaha flood-control and recreational lake nine years in the making, officially opened at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday. The sparkling blue water was dotted with kayaks.
The 730-acre recreational area includes a 220-acre lake encircled by a 5-mile path. The opportunities for recreational activity were on full display Wednesday morning — people took fishing boats and kayaks across the lake while bikers and runners cruised around the perimeter and dog-walkers strolled through a grassy area.
Less visible is the lake’s top priority: flood control. John Winkler, general manager of the Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District, said the lake is designed to protect lives and property from flood damage. The $47 million project is the NRD’s largest flood-control structure.
“It’s flood protection with some incredible cherries on top,” Winkler said.
Photos: People take in Flanagan Lake during grand opening
A press conference was held to celebrate the grand opening of Flanagan Lake, Omaha's latest flood control reservoir that provides public safety for Omaha citizens and 730 acres of recreational benefits, such as a 220-acre lake, five-mile hiking/biking trail, park area and green space.
An unexpected “dark cloud” interrupted the sunny spirit of opening day festivities, however. Construction crews working nearby struck a gas line, causing a leak. Because of the leak, the Omaha Fire Department asked the crowd of about 100 people to remain in place an extra half hour or so. People were able to leave the park after 11:20 a.m.
Paula Jakopovic had just circled the lake and was about to run a sixth mile when she was stopped by firefighters responding to the gas leak. Jakopovic said she enjoyed running the “gorgeous” path where both wildlife and families were plentiful. She said she typically runs at Standing Bear Lake or Tranquility Park and thinks the new lake will be a great addition to the area’s outdoor havens.
“I’ll definitely be back with my bike and with the dog,” Jakopovic said.
The lake’s name is a fitting tribute to Father Edward Flanagan, the founder of Boys Town who left a positive impact on Omaha’s children, Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert said at Wednesday’s ceremony.
“Just as Father Flanagan created Boys Town to provide a family-centered environment for children, Flanagan Lake is a beautiful public space that will provide family-oriented recreation and leisure,” Stothert said.
Construction on a Boys Town-themed playground will begin in late fall or early spring, said Brook Bench, Omaha’s parks director.
“We really want to make this, as Father Flanagan would have wanted, a place where families can come and enjoy,” Bench said.
Fishing is limited to catch-and-release for the first three years. The lake, near 168th and Fort Streets, has been stocked with largemouth bass, black crappie, bluegill, sunfish and northern pike.
Bicyclist Dayle Nervig said she took the day off to come cruise around the lake on her bike. She completed the loop Wednesday morning and said she enjoyed the easy and fun path.
“I go around all the lakes everywhere,” Nervig said, “and this is as nice as any of them.”