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Windmills a sight to see in Merna

Updated: May. 26, 2021 at 10:03 AM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - If you are traveling on the Sandhills Journey National Scenic Byway, you’ll want to stop for pictures of some windmills at one town along the route.

We recently stopped in Merna to talk with Dave Downey, who is the owner of Downey Well Co. He says the windmills have been there in one form or another for at least 20 years. “There are 30 of them right now,” Downey said. The windmills apparently come from all over the state, and some have taken a bit of work to put together. “This is a hobby,” Downey said. “My late cousin John Downey in Oklahoma City owned an oil company. He’d always come up and say ‘this would be a good place for a windmill park’. I’d just laugh it off. But after he sent me a newspaper article about a windmill park, I thought it might be a good idea. I had a few that I’d already been given, and they were laying here, so we started putting them up.”

Now, people tend to pull off the highway to take pictures. “It’s been an attraction, especially since we put in the campground. People can actually drive right up to them and get a lot of photographs. It’s neat to see,” Downey said.

It turns out that Downey works on windmills on a daily basis as part of his business. “We mainly do stock and domestic wells,” Downey said. “We’ve done a lot of windmills. They are getting fewer. There’s still a lot of them out there. Some are being replaced by pipeline or solar. But they are still out there, and we repair them.”

Downey works in the central Nebraska area, and through Custer County. He says his business helped drill the well for a windmill at the Sandhills Journey National Scenic Byway Visitors Center. “We have people pull in here, and they act like they are scared to come in, but it’s ok,” Downey said. “I always say, take all the pictures you like, just leave your footprints. And eventually, we hope the campground will become a destination because of that.”

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