River access grant approved by Gage County Board of Supervisors

BEATRICE – A Gage County Visitors improvement grant funded by local lodging tax revenue will go toward a Big Blue River Access point, just south of the West Court Street bridge in Beatrice.

The Gage County Board Wednesday approved the $30,000 application, as officials try to capitalize on a growing regional water recreation market. Beatrice City Attorney Taylor Rivera says there is currently a lack of public access to the Big Blue River.

“We don’t have any access points for the public. So, unless you know somebody who you can go through their back yard or something like that, you don’t really have a good, legal access point to enter the river.”

Efforts have been underway for jointly funding the river access project, which as designed came in over budget. But supporters say increased water recreation visitation would help boost local commerce, including potential outfitter businesses.  Main Street Beatrice has been working with the City of Beatrice on the project and has made contacts with Blue Springs officials on a possible access there. An access that is less developed is in place at Holmesville, southeast of Beatrice. Main Street Executive Director Michael Sothan says the goal is to improve river access as much as possible.

“With these river access points, they actually don’t fall underneath ADA standards. But, one of the things we had a conversation with the Gage County Tourism Committee is that we want to try to make these as accessible as possible.”

Local officials have studied what other communities have accomplished with water access projects, Sothan said. “We got really strong outdoor recreation starting to build with the Standing Bear Trail, the Homestead Trail…and this is one of those great things that can really draw people from hundreds of miles…and hopefully have an economic output that far exceeds the investments that we’re putting into this.”

Beatrice is hosting an increased number of softball and baseball tournaments, and County Supervisor Gary Lytle says adding in greater water recreation opportunities to go with that, is a good idea.

“Whether its young kids, its Legion or its College, you see a lot of people coming into the community. One of the things that I hear occasionally is that we’ve been out to the Homestead or we have Homestead events going on….some of those people are doing both things. I think its very viable in the fact that you’ve got active people coming into the community for those events. This is something that can draw them back, for another trip.”

The board voted 6-0 to approve the visitor improvement grant for the Big Blue River Water Trail Access Point. Board Chairman Erich Tiemann abstained from the vote, since one of his companies is a potential contractor on the project.