The Nebraska Game and Parks Board of Commissioners announced on Aug. 30 the temporary closure of all services and vehicle access to 24 state recreation areas (SRA) and five state historical parks (SHP).
The purpose of the closures is to redirect Game and Parks staff from the closed areas in an effort to reduce the more than $30 million of identified deferred maintenance needs of an aging Nebraska State Park System and meet compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and environmental requirements.
SRAs that will close Sept. 16 and reopen May 1, 2014 are: Blue River, Cheyenne, Conestoga, Cottonwood, Dead Timber, DLD, Keller, Long Lake, Long Pine, North Loup, Olive Creek, Oliver Reservoir, Pelican Point, Riverview Marina, Rock Creek Lake, Sandy Channel, Schramm, Sutherland, Union Pacific, Verdon, Stagecoach, Walgren, and War Axe. Vehicle access to boat ramps will remain open at Riverview, Pelican Point and Sutherland's Hershey Beach.
SHPs that will close Sept. 16 and reopen May 1, 2014 are: Ash Hollow, Buffalo Bill, and Fort Hartsuff. The closure of Arbor Lodge SHP in Nebraska City will be delayed until Sept. 23, following the Applejack Festival, and will reopen April 23, 2014 for the Arbor Day celebration.
Fort Atkinson SHP and Alexandria SRA will close Oct. 7 and reopen May 1, 2014. This is to accommodate Fort Atkinson's annual living history weekend Oct. 5-6. The delayed closure at Alexandria SRA accommodates services being provided by a concessionaire.
These closures are a continuation of a process over the past five years that led to the transfer of eight park areas, privatization and consolidation of several park operations, and elimination of 43 permanent park positions (nearly 20 percent). These decisions have been driven by the lack of a sustainable funding source to operate and maintain a quality State Park System into the future.
"The temporary closure of parks and the redirection of staff to work priority projects is one more step in an effort to address the funding challenges of the Nebraska State Park System," Game and Parks Director Jim Douglas said. "Game and Parks recognizes and values the importance of our partnerships and the role our state park areas play. These measures are a necessary management decision that is difficult to make, but Game and Parks is running out of options. We hope the public and our park visitors will understand we are doing everything we can to shore up our infrastructure and meet our mandates for accessibility and requirements regarding environmental compliance in light of the limited funding available."
State Sen. Bill Avery introduced LB362 during the 2013 legislative session. The bill was designed to replace the Park Entry Permit by placing a $7 charge on the motor vehicle registration fee. LB362's future is uncertain, but if passed as proposed, the bill's language would repeal the Park Entry Permit requirement for residents and generate enough annual revenue to provide a sustainable funding model that would allow Game and Parks to properly address deferred maintenance and ADA needs to ensure a quality State Park System.