FUN IN THE SUN: The campgrounds at Lake Wanahoo were a busy place over the Labor Day weekend. There are plans to keep the recreation area busy all year long. (Staff Photo by Lisa Brichacek)

WAHOO – Labor Day can signal to some people the unofficial end of summer, but the Lower Platte North Natural Resources District staff see plenty more recreational opportunities in the days ahead.

The NRD took over operations of the recreation area north of Wahoo at the start of this year. NRD General Manager Eric Gottschalk said he has been pleased overall with how everything is going at Lake Wanahoo.

“We’ve had a great first season,” he said.

The 1,777 acre recreation area that includes a 662 acre lake opened in 2012. Prior to this year, the Nebraska State Game and Parks Commission had been managing the recreation component of Lake Wanahoo.

Gottschalk said the decision for the NRD to take over the management of the park it already owned has had a lot of support.

The NRD’s own permitting process for entrance into the recreation area also doesn’t seem to be a deterrent for most people. Revenue at the park has already surpassed 2018 revenue.

“We’ve really had a good response from eastern Nebraska,” Gottschalk said.

Some people have initially questioned the need to have a separate park permit to enter Lake Wanahoo for camping, boating and recreation. But, once they hear the permit fee is not just for current expenses, he said there have been few negative comments.

“We explain we are also going to use the funds to improve the park for years to come,” he added. “I really hope everyone sees what we’re trying to do.”

Some of those new plans for the park were put into place this year.

The first event at the new Education building on the east side of the lake is scheduled for Sept. 15. Gottschalk said construction on this building, is still wrapping up but will be ready for use by then.

“It’s very close,” he said last Friday.

Appliances for the kitchen area and fixtures for the restrooms were scheduled to be put in place this week. Interior painting was also scheduled.

There will be some small items and outside landscaping to still do after Sept. 15, but it will be ready for use.

The education building is expected to be used for a variety of events organized by the district. It will also be available as a public rental facility.

Pork Chop Island also opened this summer. This island, shaped like a pork chop, is located on the north side of the lake and has been developed into primitive five camp sites.

This campground can only be accessed by boat and is completely “pack in, pack out.” Each of the five camp sites on the island are isolated too.

There have been six rentals on Pork Chop Island. Two of those have been for individual camp sites. The others have been for the full island.

Gottschalk said groups have rented all five of the camp sites for special events.

One of the next improvements planned at the recreation area is a fish cleaning station.

“That’s something the fishermen have been asking for,” he said.

A toboggan hill near the main entrance is also planned for this winter.

Details are not finalized yet, but Gottschalk said a family fun day is planned for this fall as well.

More ideas for projects and activities are expected in the near future from the Friends of Lake Wanahoo. Gottschalk said this is a newly formed group that will serve as an advisory committee to the NRD.

Members of the Friends of Lake Wanahoo come from the NRD, City of Wahoo and Saunders County, as well as the various stakeholders – fishers, campers, boaters.

Gottschalk said staff has been working hard to make sure the park is something the community can be proud of. He credited the staff for doing a good job with mowing and maintenance at the park.

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