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Lease ensures public access to Nebraska’s biggest waterfall

October 3, 2018

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — The public will continue to have access to Nebraska’s largest waterfall for at least another 25 years after the state signed a new lease agreement for Smith Falls State Park.

The original agreement on the park, a 250-acre site along the scenic Niobrara River that is home to the state’s highest waterfall, had been set to expire in 2020. Terms of the new lease signed in August weren’t disclosed, the Omaha World-Herald reported Wednesday.

The park is mainly on private land leased from the family of the late Fred Kryzanowski, who bought the land in 1941. There were concerns that the state might not be able to hold on to the property, which provides visitors an easy hike to the 63-foot-high waterfall.

After the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission took over the site decades ago, a wooden walkway was built leading to the falls, and a historic steel truss bridge was placed across the Niobrara River to ease access to the falls and hiking trails. Campsites, a shower house and visitors center also were added.

Game and Parks director Jim Douglas said the commission may consider making improvements to the park now that another long-term lease has been secured.

Retaining public management and access to Smith Falls is “absolutely, totally, good news,” said Bruce Kennedy of Malcolm. Kennedy is the longtime president of the Friends of the Niobrara, a group dedicated to preserving the river. In 1991, 76 miles of the Niobrara was declared a national scenic river.

The group was worried about losing the lease, Kennedy said.

“When Game and Parks is responsible, we’re assured of good management of the area and also assured that the integrity of the area is not degraded,” he said.

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Information from: Omaha World-Herald, http://www.omaha.com

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