NORFOLK, Neb.- A plan is in the works to make the North Fork river in Norfolk a tourism destination.
We recently talked with Josh Moenning who is the Mayor of Norfolk about this project. It's an idea that's been discussed for many years, but is now beginning to experience some forward progress. There is a plan to revitalize the North Fork river at Johnson Park. "This is where Norfolk began," Moenning said. "There are efforts happening now to restore the river to its natural course, and in the process make it safe and usable for recreation."
"Under First street, there is a remnant of the dam for the flour mill," Moenning said. That is gone now, but a spillway remains. "That creates a 14 foot drop, which makes the river unsafe for recreation. So the plan is to remove the spillway, and replace it with eight different drop structures that would create a whitewater park," Moenning said.
Many groups are apparently interested in making use of this water trail, including kayakers and tubers. But there's more to the project. There is a hope that improvements to the river will draw development such as restaurants along the banks. "We think we have a unique set up. This is a natural waterway that is also flood-controlled, so the threat of flooding is not there. It's also right off of our downtown shopping district, and right next to a historic park," Moenning said.
Some people have compared the North Fork development project to the San Antonio River Walk. "We are realistic," Moenning said. "We have a much smaller population base than San Antonio, but we think we can do this to the scale that it will be usable and accessible for people not only in our community, but throughout the region and the state of Nebraska."
Some improvements have already been made along the North Fork river. A walking trail was added in 2018. In 2017, the Norfolk Avenue bridge project took place. Partnerships are being formed to do the work on the river. The local natural resources district has approved financial backing, and the hope is in the next three to five years, the public will see some exciting changes.