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.

New Flood Mitigation Reservoir to be Named in Honor of Chief Big Elk of Omaha Tribe

Big Elk Lake

The Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District Board of Directors today voted unanimously to name Papillion’s new flood mitigation reservoir Big Elk Lake in honor of Chief Big Elk, a principal leader of the Omaha tribe.

Chief Big Elk was a leader of the Omaha tribe on the upper Missouri River where we live now,” said Papio NRD Director Kevyn Sopinski, who represents Subdistrict 10. “Big Elk played an important role in Sarpy County history and naming this flood mitigation reservoir after him is a meaningful way to not only commemorate the historical imprint Big Elk left, but keep it alive by educating others on this great leader’s life, death, and all he accomplished in between,” said Sopinski.

The Papio NRD Board of Directors agreed with Sopinski’s name proposal and today voted during its June board meeting to name the new Papillion reservoir (previously referred to as WP7), located near 108th and Lincoln Rd., Big Elk Lake.

Dr. Rudi Mitchell, the great-great-great grandson of Chief Big Elk, said he was very pleased when he heard the Papio NRD Board planned to recognize his ancestor.

“There is currently 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.”

While the new reservoir’s primary purpose is to help protect the lives and property of citizens from floods, it will also feature recreational amenities, such as a 40-acre park, 12½-acre lake, walking/cycling trails, kayak/canoe launches, picnic shelter, and fishery enhancements.

The project is estimated to open in late spring/summer of 2021.

 

 

New Board Members Sworn in at Papio NRD

Left to right: Tim McCormick, Chairperson Jim Thompson, and Kevyn Sopinski

Two recently-elected members of the Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District Board of Directors were sworn in at last night’s board meeting.

Tim McCormick, owner of a bridge and heavy civil construction company, now officially represents Subdistrict 4 following the retirement of long-time board member John Conley.

Kevyn Sopinski, a financial adviser, serves Subdistrict 10. Sopinski replaces David Klug who chose not to run for re-election to focus on election to the Sarpy County Board of Commissioners.

Another new face will join the Papio NRD Board of Directors in February, as the board announced the resignation of Director Patrick Leahy of Subdistrict 7 due to Leahy’s move to a residence located outside of Subdistrict 7.  Those interested in applying to fill the remainder of Leahy’s term can find more information here.

McCormick and Sopinski join current members of the Papio NRD Board of Directors: Ted Japp (Subdistrict 1), Fred Conley (Subdistrict 2), Larry Bradley (Subdistrict 3), Richard Tesar (Subdistrict 5), Jim Thompson (Subdistrict 6), Mark Gruenwald (Subdistrict 9), and John B. Wiese (Subdistrict 11).

New Faces on Papio NRD Board of Directors

 

 

The Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District Board of Directors will see some new faces this year following the 2018 General Election.

Tim McCormick, owner of a bridge and heavy civil construction company, takes over John Conley’s seat in Subdistrict 4. Conley retired after serving 19 years on the board.

Kevyn Sopinski, a financial adviser, replaces David Klug in Subdistrict 10, who chose not to run for re-election to focus on election to the Sarpy County Board of Commissioners.

Longtime incumbent Tim Fowler, who has represented Subdistrict 8 since 2003, will hold onto his seat after defeating challenger Jim Kusek.

Incumbents Jim Thompson in Subdistrict 6 and Fred Conley in Subdistrict 2 ran unopposed.

Additional members of the Papio NRD Board of Directors include Ted Japp (Subdistrict 1), Larry Bradley (Subdistrict 3), Richard Tesar (Subdistrict 5), Patrick Leahy (Subdistrict 7), Mark Gruenwald (Subdistrict 8), and John B. Wiese (Subdistrict 11).

The Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District Board of Directors is an 11-member board that sets policy for Papio NRD programs and projects and oversees a $72 million annual operating budget.

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