Plenty of improvements in Nebraska’s state parks await visitors in central Nebraska this year. Projects completed in 2022 or to be finished in 2023 will appeal to an array of park users. At Merritt Reservoir State Recreation Area near Valentine, multiple
campgrounds saw improvements. Cedar Bay Campground electrical was upgraded at a cost of $155,973 and the shower house for $19,750. The existing dump station there will be relocated in 2023. At Willow Cove and Cottonwood campgrounds, two outdated vault toilets were replaced with concrete restrooms compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act; total cost was $70,000. A campground design to connect Beeds and Cedar Bay campgrounds also was completed at a cost of $60,600. In 2022, a breakwater on the reservoir was improved at a cost of $669,553, and two fish grinders were upgraded to state-of-the-art Barracuda fish cleaning stations at a cost of $85,930. The replacement was needed to keep up with high use of this area as a fishing hotspot.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              At Smith Falls State Park near Valentine, a new boardwalk leading to the state’s tallest waterfall is under construction. This $2.7 million project has closed access to the falls until after May 2023, so the old boardwalk can be replaced with durable composite decking on a steel frame. The new boardwalk will be ADA-compliant and accommodate future ADA-upgrades within the park. Once completed, interpretive signage showcasing the park’s special ecosystem will be added. A design for a 50-site electrical campground on 40 acres of this park also was completed. The campground will complement the park’s two non-electric campgrounds.                                                                                                                                                                                                      When the campground reopens at Keller Park State Recreation Area near Ainsworth this June, campers will find all 25 campsites have been upgraded to 50-amp electrical service in a $325,000 project. In addition, two vault toilets were replaced by ADA-compliant concrete restrooms at a cost of $50,964.