Omaha Beltline Trail Construction Expected to Begin in 2022

The Papio NRD is partnering with the City of Omaha to develop the Beltline Trail to provide recreation, active transportation, and access to natural resources to people within the District. The trail creates a connection from the intersection of Hamilton St. at Military Ave., to the North Omaha Transit Center.

The proposed trail alignment follows the former Missouri Pacific Railroad corridor and will be constructed in multiple phases. Phase 1 of the project was bid in the fall of 2021 and construction of this phase is expected to begin in 2022. The remaining phases of the project are outlined in the master plan.


The Passing of Marlin Petermann

It is with tremendous sadness that we announce the passing of our colleague, friend, and mentor Marlin Petermann.  Marlin worked for the Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District for 47 years, the majority as assistant general manager. To say Marlin was passionate about his job is a vast understatement. He loved his work and many times was the last one to leave the office. Time spent at one’s desk does not always equate dedication, but for Marlin that certainly was the case.

Marlin had an important job that directly impacted each of us and our communities on many levels, especially public safety. A most recent example is the flood of 2019. Marlin, his team, and our various emergency management partners made critical decisions before, during, and after the flood that not only helped minimized the immediate destruction, but quickly put in motion strategies that would further reduce damage to vital infrastructure and communities, such as Offutt Air Force Base and the City of Bellevue.

This time of year, Marlin would be gearing up to monitor the Platte and Elkhorn rivers for potential ice jams. It’s probably fair to say these rivers were probably his “second home” due to his time spent overhead via helicopter, as well as on the ground. Again, for the sake of public safety.

Marlin worked tirelessly with local, county, state, and federal governments and created countless public/private partnerships that not only made our communities safer and enhanced our quality of life through his work with many District programs, such as flood mitigation, trails, conservation efforts, etc., while enhancing our natural resources along the way.

Marlin was well known and highly respected by all he worked with…and with good reason (too many to count). He was a Papio NRD institution. He truly was.

Marlin had a beautiful family and we ask that you join us in keeping his wife Cynthia, children, and grandchildren in your thoughts.








Big Elk Lake & Portal Recreation Area Officially Open to the Public  

Omaha Tribe Holds Cedar Ceremony to Bless Flood Mitigation Reservoir Named in Honor of Chief Big Elk


Chief Big Elk – Henry Inman (American, 1801–1846), Onpon Tonga (Big Elk), 1830s, oil on canvas, Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha, Nebraska, Museum purchase from the Edward R. Trabold and Lulu H. Trabold Fund with additional funds from the Durham Center for Western Studies Art Endowment Fund, 2011.2

The Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District (Papio NRD), the City of Papillion, Sarpy County, and many community partners, today celebrated the grand opening of Big Elk Lake and Portal Recreation Area, Papillion’s two new flood mitigation reservoirs that provide flood protection for Papillion and Sarpy County citizens, as well as recreational benefits and green space.

The Papio NRD Board of Directors voted last June to name the Papillion reservoir, located near 108th & Cornhusker Road. Big Elk Lake in honor of Chief Big Elk, a principal leader of the Omaha Tribe. Portal Recreation Area is located nearby at 114th and Cornhusker Road.

To kick off the ceremony, Dr. Rudi Mitchell, the great-great-great grandson of Chief Big Elk of the Omaha Tribe, held a cedar ceremony (burning cedar on charcoal) to bless the lake and surrounding recreation area. Mitchell also read aloud the famous speech Chief Big Elk gave upon returning from a treaty negotiation in Washington D.C., where he warned his people of the impending flood of settlers that threatened Omaha homelands and lifeways.

Mitchell said he is very pleased with the recognition of his ancestor.

“Until today, there was no tribute to Chief Big Elk in Omaha, said Mitchell. “Big Elk was admired for leading one of the most peaceful tribes through many challenges. Through his speeches, trading, and peace treaties, Big Elk had a gift for peacefully bringing settlers and the Omaha tribe together,” said Mitchell. “This says a lot about the kind of leader he was and I’m grateful he will be remembered in an area of beauty and nature.”

Glenna Mitchell Slater, also a descendant of Big Elk and one of the few Omaha Tribe certified fluent language speakers and teachers, is touched to see the lake entrance monument bear Chief Big Elk’s name interpreted in the Omaha language: Oⁿpoⁿ Toⁿga.

“I want to thank the Papio NRD board for accepting my request to place our Chief Big Elk’s Omaha Tribal Indian name to be translated under his name on the entrance sign,” said Mitchell Slater.

While the primary purpose of the new reservoirs is to help protect the lives and property of citizens from floods, they also feature recreational amenities, such as walking/cycling trails, kayak/canoe launches, picnic shelters, park land, and fishery enhancements.

“Chief Big Elk is one of the most notable figures in Sarpy County history. He was fiercely protective of his people, but also known as a peaceful leader who valued alliances,” said John Winkler, general manager of the Papio NRD. “Naming this flood mitigation reservoir in honor of him – a structure designed to protect the people of Sarpy County made possible through partnerships and surrounded by acres of beauty and peaceful natural resources – seems like a perfect way to commemorate all that Chief Big Elk stood for. It has been an absolute honor working with the Omaha Tribe on this special project,” said Winkler.

Papillion Mayor David Black said the city is excited for the completion of Big Elk Lake and Portal Recreation Area and thanks the Papio NRD for its continued commitment to providing vital flood protection to the area.

“In addition to the flood protection, the recreational opportunities these areas will provide are invaluable to our community,” said Black. “The City of Papillion values our long-term partnership with the NRD, and we are proud to bring these new areas into our park system,” said Black.

Big Elk Lake and Portal Recreation Area are now open to the public.




Papio NRD Decreases Property Tax Levy

Papio NRD Board Approves Proposed 2022 Budget

At its September 9th meeting, the Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District Board of Directors voted to approve the Fiscal Year 2022 general operating budget that includes a decrease in the Papio NRD property tax levy.

“It is our fiduciary responsibility to save taxpayer dollars and we are proud the Papio NRD’s property tax levy will decrease again this year,” said John Winkler, general manager of the Papio NRD. “For 16 out of 17 years, the District has either decreased (10 years), or kept the tax levy the same,” said Winkler. This is the Papio NRD’s lowest mill levy since 2015.

The Papio NRD will drop its property tax mill levy 2.25% this fiscal year. More importantly, even though LB 408, a bill to limit political subdivisions property tax spending, failed to pass last legislative session, the Papio NRD thought it extremely important to live up to the spirit and goals of the bill to control the growth of property taxes.

“Due to sound fiscal management; healthy and growing valuations and overall economy; as well as strong local, state, and federal partnerships, the Papio NRD is able to wisely conserve our financial and natural resources,” says Winkler.

The FY22 budget calls for a property tax levy of .035669 per $100 of assessed valuation, which means a homeowner with property valued at $100,000 would pay a total of $35.67 a year or $2.97 a month in property taxes next year to support Papio NRD projects. The budget calls for an estimated $28.2 million in revenue from the Papio NRD’s property tax levy. The total operating budget is estimated at $85.4 million.

The Papio NRD’s property tax levy utilizes less than two percent of a homeowner’s total property tax bill who lives within the District’s six-county area. The levy is based on an estimated 5.88% increase in valuations across the District, which includes all of Sarpy, Douglas, Washington, and Dakota counties, plus the eastern 60% of Burt and Thurston counties.



What’s in the water we can’t see below ground?

By Paul W. Woodward
Papio-Missouri River NRD – Groundwater Management Engineer

Ever wonder what materials or possible contaminants are contained within the water that exists below ground?  No need to guess!  The Papio NRD and many other federal, state and local agencies actively monitor the quality of our local groundwater to check that it is generally safe for drinking water and many other uses.

But first, what is groundwater, or what is an aquifer?  Groundwater is any water that is contained within the openings, or voids, below ground.  These voids are typically very small and only occur between soil particles, such as clay, silt, sand and gravel.  An aquifer is a geologic layer or strata of water-bearing material from which groundwater can be extracted.  Groundwater is usually extracted by pumping it from a well and the best producing aquifers in our area are found in layers of sand, gravel, and sometimes sandstone.  Our District has four primary aquifer systems: the Platte and Elkhorn River alluvium, the Missouri River alluvium, the upland alluvial or glacial deposits, and the Dakota Formation sandstone.

The Papio NRD has worked with the U.S. Geological Survey since 1992 to sample and test the groundwater from various aquifers throughout our District.  Today, this sampling is performed bi-annually from dedicated monitoring wells owned by the NRD across our six-county area.  Additionally, one of the four primary aquifers is selected each year and 20 to 25 samples are obtained (primarily from private domestic wells) and tested.

Water quality results are reviewed each year by NRD staff and our Board of Directors.  “For the most part, groundwater quality across the NRD remains good,” says Paul Woodward, Groundwater Management Engineer for the Papio NRD. “During the past several years, the NRD has reacted to low-level nitrate contamination concerns near Tekamah and Springfield by declaring Phase II Groundwater Quality Management Areas.  These Phase II areas calculate and track nitrogen fertilizer applications as well as implement other best management practices,” says Woodward.

Results from the groundwater quality testing are made available through the USGS National Water Information System at

For local cities and public water systems, groundwater quality is sampled and tested in accordance with the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.  Anybody can access water quality testing data for municipalities or Rural Water Districts by going to Every person has the ultimate responsibility to research and understand how the quality of the water you use may affect your health.  In areas where no public data is available, especially for private domestic wells, it is recommended that each home and well owner have their well sampled and tested each year, primarily for bacteria and nitrates.

The Papio NRD offers assistance to private landowners who need help sampling and testing their domestic well.  If you need information or even test kits, you can contact Paul Woodward at 402-315-1772 or the Dakota City field office at 402-494-4949, Extension 3.




Grand Re-Opening of Lied Bridge & MoPac Trail

Repairs to damage caused by historic flood of 2019 complete

Recreation enthusiasts showed up in droves along the Platte River Saturday, July 3, to celebrate the official grand re-opening of the Lied Platte River Bridge and MoPac Trail, which were damaged by the flood of 2019. The Lied Platte River Bridge is the only crossing along the Platte River that connects Lincoln and Omaha by the MoPac Trail.


“It’s incredible to bring together people riding bicycles, other trail users, community leaders and groups, as well as partner agencies who helped us complete extensive repairs to the Lied Bridge following the flood of 2019,” said John Winkler, general manager of the Papio NRD. “Flood damage devasted this popular pedestrian crossing and lack of access to it was certainly felt. We’re thrilled to see it back in action so quickly,” said Winkler.

For the past two years, the Papio NRD has worked closely with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and Lower Platte South NRD on four flood-related repair projects on the Lied Bridge and MoPac Trail.


Eric Williams, natural resources planner for the Papio NRD said the projects totaled over $525,000, a majority of which will be reimbursed by FEMA as part of disaster recovery assistance.

The projects included: removal of large debris from the bridge, removal and replacement of damaged parts of the fence and railing, repair and replacement of the ice breaker structures under the bridge, and reconstruction of the trail connecting link from Highway 31 to the east end of the bridge.

“It’s been a two-year project collaborating with the Papio-Missouri River NRD and the Lower Platte South NRD and we are super excited to be reopening the Lied Bridge and MoPac Trail after the devastating flood of 2019,” said Adam Johns, park superintendent III at Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. “It’s great that visitors can once again enjoy the wonderful views of the Platte River that this bridge and trail have to offer,” said Johns.

“Sometimes we don’t know what we have ‘til it’s gone,” said Lower Platte South NRD Board Chair Deborah Eagan. “Losing access to the Lied Bridge brought tremendous interest from trail users who were anxious to see it repaired and reopened. Fortunately, the damage was able to be fixed in an effective and efficient manner.  We are excited to have this important local and national link to our trail systems restored.  Thanks to all who coordinated, cooperated and communicated to see this project finalized,” said Eagan.

(left to right) Eric Williams, Papio NRD Natural Resources Planner; Bill Oligmueller, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission Regional Superintendent; Senator Rob Clements; Ron Nolte, Lower Platte South NRD Board of Directors; Jim Peterson, Cass County Commissioner; Janet McCartney, Cass County Commissioner; Deborah Eagan, Lower Platte South NRD Board Chair; Julie Harris, Bike Walk Nebraska Executive Director


The Lied Platte River Bridge, a former railroad bridge, was converted to bicycle and pedestrian access in 2001. The bridge and connecting trails are critical components of the Great American Rail-Trail through Nebraska. The Great American Rail-Trail is a project of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy to create the nation’s first cross-country, multi-use trail, spanning from Washington, DC to Washington state.

“We cannot overstate the importance of having the Lied Bridge back open for bicycling,” said Julie Harris, executive director of Bike Walk Nebraska. “Not only is it a key connection for people riding locally between Omaha and Lincoln, the bridge also provides a regional connection to 120 miles of trail on the west and over 100 miles on the east, creating enormous potential for bicycle tourism in eastern Nebraska,” said Harris.





Dom’s Park Officially Open at Chalco Hills Recreation Area

Grand opening held Saturday for new playground in memory of four-year-old Dominik Walters

Hundreds attended a ribbon cutting ceremony on Saturday, June 19, to celebrate the official grand opening of Dom’s Park at Chalco Hills Recreation Area. The new playground is in memory of four-year-old Dominik (Dom) Walters.

“We are absolutely thrilled to be able to share Dom’s Park with our family, friends, and community,” said Ryan and Tiffany Walters. “Seeing Dom’s Park completed, packed with children and their families, is incredible.”

Four-year-old Dom died in August 2018 after suffering a cardiac arrest while doing cannonballs off the dock with his father, Ryan. The Walters family – Ryan, Tiffany, Dom, and Nora (or Boon, as Dom called her) – frequently visited Chalco Hills Recreation Area to play on the playground equipment and explore the park.

To carry on the memory of their son, a few short months after Dom’s death, the Walters approached the Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District (Papio NRD) about the possibility of donating funds for the construction of a new playground (Dom’s Park) at Chalco Hills. The family felt Dom’s Park would be the perfect way to honor Dom’s legacy and provide a new facility that children throughout the community could enjoy.

The Papio NRD Board of Directors agreed and voted to approve cost share for the purchase and installation of the state-of-the-art playground facility. In May, Dom’s Park replaced playground equipment that was over 30 years old.

“It has been our privilege to work with Ryan, Tiffany, and Boon and to be a partner on this special cost share project,” said Papio NRD General Manager John Winkler. “The Walters turned unimaginable tragedy into a positive. Since Dom’s Park opened, to say it’s been a tremendous hit would be an understatement. Dom’s Park is an incredible tribute to Dom and gift to the Omaha community that will last for years to come,” said Winkler.

The cost of the Dom’s Park playground equipment and installation totaled $279,071. Through generous donations to the Dominik Walters Memorial Fund, including a matching grant of $76,464 from the playground equipment company, BCI Burke Company, the Walters family donated $105,000 to the Papio NRD.

Winker says the Papio NRD budgeted $125,000 for the purchase and installation of the equipment, but the Walters family surpassed its fundraising goal, leaving $97,607 total cost for the Papio NRD.

“We owe a debt of gratitude to every person who supported us in making Dom’s Park possible, said the Walters. “Chalco Hills was one of Dominik’s favorite places and we could not imagine Dom’s Park being located anywhere else. We are grateful beyond words to the Papio NRD for believing in our vision and helping make Dom’s Park a reality,” said the Walters.

Dom’s Park is located in the northwest corner of Chalco Hills Recreation Area near Picnic Area A.

Public Input on Papio NRD Master Plan Update

The public is invited to provide input on the Papio NRD Master Plan Draft update on Thursday, June 3 from 4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m., and Tuesday, June 8 at 4:00 p.m.

P-MRNRD Master Plan, Public Input Meeting via Zoom Meeting
Thursday, June 3rd at 4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Presentation of material will be at 4:00 p.m., and again at 5:15 p.m.
Input can be sent by email to

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 840 1268 1461
Passcode: 211130
One tap mobile
+13462487799,,84012681461# US (Houston)
+16699006833,,84012681461# US (San Jose)

Public input will also be received during the regularly scheduled Subcommittee meeting of the Board of Directors on Tuesday, June 8th at 4:00 p.m. at the Natural Resources Center.






Scrap Computer & Electronics Recycling Collections

The Papio-Missouri River NRD’s free electronic waste (e-waste) recycling collections are coming up!  Residents and most businesses in the Papio NRD service area can participate in these convenient events.

Simply gather unwanted e-waste, drive to a scheduled collection site, get in line, stay in your vehicle and collection staff will unload for you. The collections will accept computers, monitors, televisions, printers, office equipment, DVD/VHS players, audio equipment, radios and other small electronic devices.

Collection Dates and Times

The collections will be held at the Papio NRD/USDA Service Centers in Blair, Tekamah, Dakota City, and Walthill.

The collection schedule is:

Tuesday, May 25th in Tekamah and Blair

  • Tekamah collection (539 S. 13th St.) – 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
  • Blair collection (1060 Wilbur St.) – 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Thursday, May 27th in Dakota City and Walthill

  • Dakota City collection (1505 Broadway) – 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
  • Walthill collection (106 Costello St.) – 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

E-waste will ONLY be accepted during the scheduled times and locations rain or shine! E-waste will not be accepted from computer or electronics repair/retail businesses. The collections will NOT accept microwaves or appliances. Midwest Electronic Recovery will wipe or shred all computer hard drives and recycle the materials collected.

The annual collections have received more than 193 tons of e-waste and 97% of it has been recycled.  Recycling e-waste protects the environment from contamination by mercury, lead, arsenic, and cadmium present in e-waste components and also conserves landfill space.

Funding for the free e-waste collections is provided through the Litter Reduction and Recycling Incentive Grant Program and the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy. Please contact Deb Ward at (402) 374-1920 ext. 3 for more information.