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.

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.”

Anna Bauman covers a little bit of everything as one of The World-Herald's summer interns. Phone: 402-444-1304.

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(8) comments

BOB JONES

The NRD gets no more of my money. These areas are in no jeopardy of flooding. Don't buy this lie. Just another way that politicians can spend your hard earned money.

Jim Redelfs

I would guess that you weren’t around in 1964 when the Papillion Creek watershed flooded terribly. There were fatalities and many millions of dollars in damage.

You are ALMOST correct about “these areas are in no jeopardy of flooding.” It is the areas DOWNSTREAM from these dams that will be protected from flooding. With the possible exception of Lake Candlewood, every other one of these dam sites are for flood control. That they are also used for various recreations is an added benefit.

As for the NRD getting no more of your money: Depending upon where you live, you may already not be paying for it. Otherwise, you’re going to have to move.

Joe Turco

Bob - you are correct about the immediate area not being at risk, however, it does protect areas down stream, many miles away. Also, I love the attitude of "they get no more of my money", but our government WILL get it's money from you if you own property. If you find a way around it, please share!

BOB JONES

Oh ya there are already two other lakes within a few short miles from there.

GAIL JONES

Where exactly is this lake located? Article only said Northwest Omaha.

GAIL JONES

Where exactly is this lake located? All the article said was Northwest Omaha.

THOMAS MATTHEWS

Near 168th and Fort, the article said.

BILL ARMBRUST

Recreation for the public is a noble, serious reason for spending tax money but this lake is first and foremost in place to mitigate the fast flow of rainfall due to development, and second, to enhance potential value of development for new home subdivisions by home builders. Any flood control due to this lake rather than spending far less on other dispersed water holding methods upstream and downstream from this location is the cherry on top. Enjoy the new park for running, biking, and fishing- but what is the opportunity cost for recreation spending around a lake rather than spending several million on other venues around the city and region?

Welcome to the discussion.

Please keep it clean, turn off CAPS LOCK and don't threaten anyone. Be truthful, nice and proactive. And share with us - we love to hear eyewitness accounts.

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