MORSE BLUFF – There has been one constant since the State of Nebraska created natural resource districts in 1972, and that constant is Don Kavan.
The rural Morse Bluff farmer and conservationist has been a board director ever since the Lower Platte North Natural Resources District was created.
Prior to that, he served two years on the Sand/Duck Creek Watershed Board, the forerunner to natural resource districts.
He said continuing to serve and running for re-election every four years these past 46 years has just seemed right, because protecting natural resources has always been natural for him.
“It’s a lifestyle for me. It’s what I’ve done all my life,” Kavan said.
He uses terraces, dams and other conservation practices on his ground and wanted to help others see the benefits too.
But, the NRD director decided it’s time to hand off that job now to someone else. Kavan chose not to run for re-election in 2018.
He said people have asked him why not run for another term and make it 50 years on the board.
Now was the right time.
Kavan said the district has been involved in many, many projects over the years. He recalled the years of work that went into the big projects, such as Czechland Lake near Prague, Homestead Lake near Bruno, Lake Wanahoo near Wahoo.
There have been other major projects, like the rural water systems and watershed projects.
“We have a lot of wonderful little ones too, such as terraces, waterways and no-till programs,” Kavan said about the various programs that the NRD offers to area landowners.
The district is now embarking on another big project in the Wahoo Creek Watershed. Kavan knows this will not be an overnight project and completion of the work that needs to be done could take at least 15 years.
Having that checklist of district accomplishments in hand, he said now was the time to retire before another big project really got underway.
“Let someone else make the decisions,” he said.
He added that change can be a good thing, bringing in new directors also brings new ideas and a new way to look at projects.
Still, he will keep an eye on the projects in the district and how money is being spent.
The NRD’s budget and where a majority of the money for the budget was coming from was always on Kavan’s mind.
“It has to be, without tax dollars, you can’t do anything,” he said.
His goal, he said, was to make sure the most could be accomplished with what the district had to work with.
“We didn’t have whole lot of funds, but we got enough to do the job,” he added.
Kavan was also ever mindful that the job he was doing had to be accountable to the public’s wants and needs. He said the return on any decision the board made had to be acceptance – did the public approve.
Over the years, he met many members of the public and also got to know resource and conservation fellows as he traveled to state and national conferences. He has also served on the Nebraska Natural Resource Commission and the Nebraska Association of Resource District board.
“I’ve been paid a million times because of the people you meet,” he said.
Kavan said he felt it was important to make those connections and recommended all board members do that.
While Kavan touts the many accomplishments for the district since it was created in 1972, he admitted it was not always a smooth road. He said there were tough decisions to be made and some of the big projects, such as Czechland Lake, were controversial.
But, Czechland Lake is now considered a jewel by many people, he said. And,
that includes Kavan and his wife, Karen, who often use
the walking trails at the recreation area.
Despite the countless meetings over the years and the decisions that had to be made, Kavan looks back fondly over his time as a NRD director.
“It was fun and enjoyable. We’ve had our bumps and bruises, but it was still enjoyable,” he said. “There is no way I can express my gratitude to the voters of this district for allowing me to serve 46 years. I enjoyed what I did.”
Kavan plans to attend the Jan. 14 board meeting. But, it will be a short one for him as Nancy Meyer, who was elected in November, will be sworn in and take over Kavan’s spot at the board table.