The 70-plus acres that constitute American Heroes Park have been, like Cinderella, an unrecognized beauty in Bellevue’s midst. Living in the shadow of adjacent Haworth Park, named for Bellevue’s longest serving mayor, the land sat empty for decades awaiting removal of an abandoned Nebraska Public Power District power plant.
That removal occurred in 2004, and in 2012 the city launched a 20-year, $20 million plan to transform the industrial acres into a regional park that would include a 300-seat amphitheater on the edge of a lake, a scenic trail, a community center, a museum and a restaurant.
This year’s flooding of Haworth Park, seven years after the great flood of 2011, proves the wisdom of transferring tax dollars to the north side of Mission Avenue where American Heroes Park sits.
Higher and drier than Haworth Park, American Heroes was untouched even by the 2011 flood that submerged Haworth beneath 10 feet of river water. Immune, then, even to a 500-year flood, American Heroes presents an opportunity for the city to develop a state-of-the-art park free from the fear of having its investment washed away every few years.
The Greater Bellevue Area Chamber of Commerce discovered this fact on Friday and Saturday, when flooding at Haworth Park forced the chamber’s annual RiverFest celebration to relocate across Mission Avenue to American Heroes Park.
Jim Ristow, executive director of the chamber, now hopes to make American Heroes the permanent location for Riverfest.
Perhaps a home could also be found there for a riverfront restaurant similar to the late, lamented Bellevue Queen that eventually gave up the ghost in the face of repeated flooding. That would require private investment, of course, but given the resistance to flooding repeatedly demonstrated by American Heroes Park, perhaps investors could be found.
The Bellevue Queen, given its location, was something of a destination location, and could be again.
Some things are decided for us, and it is clear that during the second decade of the new century the Missouri River declared that the future of Bellevue’s parkland lies with American Heroes Park.
While Haworth Park should continue to welcome recreational vehicles and trailwalkers, let the city press on to the future with the higher, drier, more dependable American Heroes Park.