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Nebraska Pegs $1.7M for Campground Upgrades

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Cabins, enhanced campgrounds and horse-friendly campsites are part of a $1.7 million package of improvements proposed for Mahoney State Park near Ashland, Neb., and Lake McConaughy near Ogallala, Neb.

Gov. Dave Heineman and Nebraska Game and Parks Commission officials announced these improvements Thursday (Jan. 17) as a way of boosting tourism and increasing revenue at two of the state's most visited state parks, the Lincoln Journal Star reported.

More than 1 million people visited Mahoney in 2010, generating more than $52 million in retail sales, according to the commission. Factor in trip-related spending and the figure jumps to nearly $87 million.

Lake McConaughy had a similar economic impact in 2010. The park drew nearly 1 million people and generated more than $44 million in retail sales. Trip-related spending boosted revenue to more than $73 million.

Taken together, the two state parks are responsible for 20% of the annual visits to Nebraska's state park system, Commission Director Jim Douglas said.

"Tourism is important to Nebraska and these strategic investments will help meet the current demands at two of our outstanding, popular parks," Heineman told reporters at a Thursday news conference.

The $1.7 million is part of Heineman's proposed biennium budget for fiscal years 2013-2015. If approved by the Legislature, construction could be completed within 18 months, Douglas said.

At Mahoney State Park, the commission plans to build three "lodge-style" cabins. The 700-acre park, just off Interstate 80 along the Platte River, currently has 52 cabins.

Modeled after similar facilities at Ponca State Park, each modern cabin would have six bedrooms, three bathrooms, a great room with a fireplace, fully equipped kitchen, dining area, and a deck offering scenic views.

Douglas said the cabins will help meet demand and offer more opportunities to bring families together and foster an appreciation for nature. They are also used for corporate functions and even weddings.

The commission plans to upgrade two campgrounds at Lake McConaughy, the state's largest reservoir. At Lone Eagle, the commission plans to provide water, sewage and electrical service at 84 camping pad sites. Twenty full-service sites, 40 electrical sites and new equestrian-friendly features at 35 of the 60 sites are planned for Cedar Vue.

Commission Chair Ron Stave said the improvements will spur economic development and attract visitors from across the nation.

Ogallala Sen. Ken Schilz, whose legislative district includes Lake McConaughy, said tourism has become a large part of the state's economy.

About 70% of the annual visitors to Lake McConaughy come from Colorado, Douglas said.

State Sen. Bill Kintner of Papillion, whose legislative district includes Mahoney, noted that the commission is mostly a self-funded agency that doesn't frequently ask the state for funds to improve state parks.

"This will easily pay for itself — that's why I support it," Kintner said.

 

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