Support for riverfront project is appreciated

August 24, 2018

There were many things to be pleased about in regard to the Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District’s recent vote to financially support the North Fork River restoration project.

The board voted 8-5 to provide slightly more than $1 million over several years to help move the project forward.

The City of Norfolk and private funds will cover the remaining two-thirds cost of the project.

An 8-5 vote is an indication that there were differing opinions present. That’s not surprising.

The expenditure of that kind of money — even though it won’t translate into a property tax increase — can make for a difficult decision.

From our perspective, the affirmative vote was a reflection of several things: The strong interest and involvement in plans for the development and restoration of the North Fork River; the progress made in those plans that make it easier for Norfolkans and area residents to understand and appreciate what’s being envisioned; and the collaboration being shown by the city and private interests in seeking the Lower Elkhorn’s assistance, too.

But as much as anything, we believe, a key factor in the vote turning out the way it did was the fact that this same kind of project has been long identified as a priority for the NRD itself.

As Norfolk Mayor Josh Moenning pointed out, this riverfront trail project has been on the NRD radar of possible projects for more than 40 years.

Retired NRD manager Stan Staab and others can point to bound copies of a detailed study of riverfront development from many years ago.

It’s just that — until now — there didn’t seem to be a realistic way of proceeding.

The bottom line is that the Lower Elkhorn NRD — just like others across the state — has been given some state mandates to follow, and this project falls within those.

There certainly is discretion given to any NRD as to how it follows those mandates and how much in tax dollars is spent on any given project. But the Lower Elkhorn NRD has done an excellent job with past similar projects, such as Maskenthine Lake near Stanton, Willow Creek near Pierce and, most recently, Maple Creek near Leigh. It was the North Fork River’s turn.

There still is much to be done — including money to be raised — before the kind of riverfront development being envisioned becomes reality. But the NRD’s financial support is a key step forward, and it’s appreciated.

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