28 October 2013

Request for Details on Habitat Work at Omaha Park

This email was sent October 25, 2013 to Omaha mayor Jean Stothert and Franklin Thompson, of the Omaha city council.

After conversations with a few people well aware of One Pacific Place Park, there is no clear indication of what is going to happen at this park. Neighbors and others want a park where the "natural features" such as the wetland feature will be maintained in a manner which conforms with what was originally intended. The prairie flora should reflect native Nebraska flora.

This project has already started, as the wetland area vegetation has already been removed and mowed to a barren condition in mid-September. This work, by the way, destroyed habitat which could have been used by wild birds, especially during the autumn migration.

Currently, there are marker flags around the wetland area, which are another obvious sign that the project is underway.

The following are items of interest and concern associated with the changes expected to occur at this distinct park.

1. Why was the vegetation cleared from the wetland area, weeks prior to any further work? one comment heard was that the park was "scalped"; with suitable planning and consideration, the work might have been compressed into a short time-frame of a week or two?
2. What will be the extent of any earth-moving work; does the basin need reworking to provide a suitable slope from west to east to facilitate the flow of water? When would this occur?
3. Will there be any reseeding necessary, and if so what particular species will be reseeded, and when might this occur? There is a preference to ensure that only species native to Nebraska be established.
4. How will the prairie vegetation be maintained; will it be mowed annually or burned occasionally? There are local experts who know how to maintain a vibrant prairie environment who could easily be consulted on what is necessary to ensure a quality prairie-like setting that requires minimal maintenance.
5. Is the pending work based upon the master plan for the park? Will the results conform with the original master plan for the park as developed in the late 1990s, or has this changed?
6. What are the plans for providing water to the wetland? What will be the expense associated with pumping water into the basin? Is there an expected period of time when water will be pumped, and does this pumping require a state permit for any well?
7. How has Omaha Parks Recreation and Public Property conveyed to the public the work expected to occur at this park?
8. Where can Omaha citizens, neighbors and park fans learn more the work expected to occur at One Pacific Place Park, which is a property owned by city residents and which should be managed in a manner interested citizens deem suitable for the greater public good?
9. Why has it required at least a half-dozen phone-calls over a three week period, with no call-back or email response, to try to learn more about what is going to happen at this park?
10. How can interested citizens actively participate in improving this park? This was not achieved through the recent public meeting. Perhaps a neighborhood group could host a planning meeting where there could be a discussion of plans and agreement on how to move ahead in a positive manner, based upon community collaboration, rather than a seemingly, isolative bureaucratic decision?

There is, at this time, no clear indication of the expected changes at this park, and the timeframe for any work.

This park is a asset to the neighborhood, and any pending changes can only be improved by an open discussion of what is going to occur, and how to ensure publicly-appreciated values for the long term.