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Lake, park proposed for west edge of Omaha
By Nancy Gaarder, Omaha World-Herald

Construction could begin as early as next year on a modest-sized lake that is to anchor what will be suburban west Omaha's signature park.

The lake would be built through a public-private partnership, with upscale housing, retirement homes and offices along the banks. The lake would be along 192nd Street between West Dodge Road and Blondo Street.

The approximately $7 million, 58-acre lake would be funded through a partnership of the Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District, the City of Omaha and Dial Cos.

Taxpayers would foot most of the cost of the lake, which would be the first of as many as 10 new lakes that have been proposed for flood control in the metropolitan area.

An NRD board committee will review the lake plan Tuesday. The full board is scheduled to vote Thursday.

Contingent on NRD approval, the office development and housing proposed by Dial are scheduled to go before the planning boards of Elkhorn and Omaha in December and January.

If all goes according to schedule, the dam will be built next year. The lake, which would be about 1.5 times the size of Candlewood Lake, would fill during the following one to three years.

The public would have full access to the lake for fishing and boating. Like other public lakes, this would be a no-wake lake. Eventually, the Cities of Elkhorn and Omaha would build trails around the lake that would link to other trails in the metro area.

Development of the park itself is years away. The City of Omaha owns the land, but has not yet included its development in its long-range budget.

The future park, at 192nd and Dodge on the southeast side of the new lake, has been dubbed the Memorial Park of west Omaha. Like Omaha's Memorial Park at Dodge Street and Happy Hollow Boulevard, the new park will have a sloping look and will include a large civic monument, an outdoor amphitheater and sledding hills. The park is planned as a grand entrance into west Omaha.

"Think of broad, open spaces and tree-lined walks," said Dave Ciaccio, the landscape architect who drew up the design for the park.

The lake also would connect with the Elkhorn campus of Metropolitan Community College, Elkhorn High School and Elkhorn Ridge Golf Course.

On the northwest side of the lake, the Dial Cos. would develop the land for upscale single-family and senior housing, said Chris Held of Dial. Included are 23 lakeside lots for homes that would sell from $750,000. Homes farther from the lake would sell for lesser amounts.

Held said the campus for senior citizens would include everything from individual homes to townhouses to an assisted-living complex.

Along 192nd Street, Dial would build an office complex. Lyman-Richey Sand and Gravel Corp. has a plant on that side of the lake site, which it would upgrade.

Steve Oltmans, general manager for the NRD, said that although the cost of the land is high -- $53,871 an acre -- he believes the price is fair.

"This is an example of land prices going up," Oltmans said. "The longer we wait, the more expensive it gets."

The land is being purchased from the Zalkin Real Estate Trust. The Zalkin family farmed there for years, said Bob Belgrade, one of the trustees. This fall, corn and soybeans were harvested.

On the north side of the development, Blondo would curve south so that a portion of the Old Lincoln Highway can be preserved.

Held said Dial is looking forward to developing the project.

"There aren't too many places in town where you have these amenities - a lake and park together," he said.

Under the agreement that the NRD will vote on next week, Dial would provide the NRD with $1 million toward the cost of the land. The NRD would pay Dial $2.3 million for the fill dirt needed for the dam and for other improvements. A portion of land the City of Omaha already has purchased for the park will be used for the lake.

Dial and the NRD are paying the same price for the land, Oltmans said, with the NRD purchasing 65 acres for the dam and lake from the Zalkin Trust. Dial is buying 87 acres for its residential and office complexes, Held said.

The NRD also plans to purchase about 22 acres from Lyman-Richey.

The lake would provide flood control for about a two-square mile area of the watershed along a small tributary of the West Papillion Creek. Like the other smaller lakes that are proposed, that is less than 1 percent of the flood protection in the plan.

The real gains in flood control would come from two massive lakes proposed for Washington County -- lakes that face stiff resistance from landowners. An NRD vote on the master plan, which was to have come this year, probably won't occur before next year, Oltmans said.

Unlike some of the other dams in the plan, no homes or roads would be flooded to build the west suburban lake. West Dodge Road in this area was designed with the lake in mind.

The NRD would own, operate and maintain the dam, which means the NRD would retain liability for it.

Most of the green space at the lake would be on the southeast side where the city park and NRD property would total about 100 acres, Oltmans said. Along the developed areas, the site would not have nearly the amount of green space that people are used to seeing at most local flood-control reservoirs, he said.

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