City of Omaha improving several parks with ARPA funds

Omaha parks are due for a facelift, thanks to $10 million in ARPA funding the city has yet to spend.
Published: May. 19, 2023 at 6:52 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) – The digging is underway as the City of Omaha uses $10 million of what some would call “found money” to improve parks.

There are signs of life at Pipal Park at 78th and Center in Omaha. A crane digging up and dropping dirt. Mounds of rock, cylinders of piping and a Bobcat sitting in the parking lot. Raw materials and equipment are pretty much ready to go.

This particular project is one of a dozen parks projects that the city is now spending ARPA, or federal COVID rescue plan money on.

“It was actually a perfect convergence of some places that needed some attention and the criteria and the very specific information of using the ARPA funds,” said Matt Kalcevich, the Omaha Parks and Recreation Director. “The census track that was part of the review overlaid perfectly with this project.”

A walk around the run-down recreation space and you can see it clearly needs improvements. The tree lines are nice, but the road is ripped up. The awning, picnic tables and tennis courts sit pretty much vacant.

Stephen Pesek uses the park. He’s glad to see the progress.

“I think it’s a super idea,” said Pesek. “It’s long doing because we needed the upgrades here. I think this park has a lot of use. I think by upgrading it you are extending it even further as far as the number of people who are going to take part.”

Other parks due for big improvements include Lynch Park near 21st and Martha in South Omaha. Workers there say they are starting to build a concession stand for the nearby baseball fields. The city will spend $3 million to improve the ball fields and create additional open space and shelters.

And over at Mandan Park at 13th and Jefferson near the Missouri River, barricades are up to keep trespassers out. You can see unused picnic tables off in the distance. The $1.5 million blueprint calls for nature trails, a playground and a summer camp.

The Parks Director says the goal is to make them destination parks.

“For example, Pipal Park the barrier-free playground that we’ve established here,” said Kalcevich. “Mandan the new nature trails and our vision to expand camp for youth there. Lynch Park, a skate park we are looking to grow and develop for our youth in South Omaha. Some things that fit in well with our big picture vision.”

Now that the new construction is off the ground, 6 News is told the newly renovated Pipal Park will likely be ready for visitors by the fall of this year.