WILBER, NE — There’s new life in Wilber Lake.
What was a unkept flood prevention reservoir, is now a southeast Nebraska attraction brimming with catfish, frogs, and fishermen.
“It just wasn’t pretty," committee chair Sheryl Kastanek said. "I’ve always thought it could be a great place of natural outside environment for our town.”
Sheryl Kastanek helped start the Pathways to Progress committee in 2015. The group worked with the Lower Big Blue NRD, which owns the land, to secure grants to fund the project. The City of Wilber chipped in and now rents the property.
Stage one of the project is complete and Kastanek says it’s transformed the area.
“You can walk the trails if you like," Kastanek said. "If you’re elderly and just want to come out and sit and enjoy the water and the birds, it feels good too.”
Jason Ripa works for the city and helped former Extension Educator Randy Pryor plant around 90 trees on the north side of the lake.
The young arboretum features a diverse selection of rare trees from around the state.
The lake is stocked with bass, bluegill and catfish.
“When the pond was empty, we spent several days out here adding structure, whether it be cedar trees for brush or some man-made structures… to give the fish some habitat to live in,” Ripa said.
The $450,000 project also includes a mile-long walking trail, a picnic shelter and a handicap accessible fishing pier. Project leaders will show off the new lake on Saturday with a family fishing day event.
Kastanek is ready to share the progress with the region.
“I couldn’t be happier. I see sunrises come over the water, I see sunsets go down past the water," Kastanek said. "It’s just a quiet place of solitude in Wilber, Nebraska.”
The fishing event starts at 9:00 on Saturday. The day includes a fishing derby, a tour of the arboretum, expert fishing presentations and a free lunch. You can find more information on the Pathways to Progress Facebook page.