Lower Elkhorn NRD Presents $1.032M to the City of Norfolk to Revitalize Riverfront

Lower Elkhorn NRD Presents $1.032M to the City of Norfolk to Revitalize Riverfront


NORFOLK, Nebraska - Imagine floating peacefully down a lazy river with family and friends, then drifting into a downtown area where great food, shopping, and live music await. It’s a dream that is coming true for people in and around Norfolk who have raised millions in grants and matching funds to transform the city’s downtown riverfront district into one of the finest tourism destinations in northeast Nebraska.

Several board members and staff for the Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District (LENRD) presented a check to the city July 15, 2022, near the project site on First Street. The LENRD board of directors made the decision to support the project in 2018 when they voted to provide $1.032 million to the North Fork Riverfront Development Project.

“The plan to develop the Norfolk riverfront is nothing new to this district,” said Mike Sousek, LENRD general manager. “The first stages of the original project were studied by the city and the LENRD in 1974. Over the past 10 years, the study has found new life and is finally becoming a reality.”

This long-term vision set in place almost 50 years ago has exploded with dreams of restaurants, new business locations, housing, bike lanes, and more.  The original “riverwalk group” as they were sometimes called, pictured the river walk in San Antonio, and have scaled it to fit the needs of the Norfolk Area.  Norfolk Mayor Josh Moenning, the North Fork Development Committee, and other local leaders have envisioned the area being used to generate new cultural and recreational opportunities, providing a regional destination for working, playing, and living environments.

“The river is a natural resource with a rich history that should be protected and utilized for the benefit of the local area,” said Sousek said.  “Maintaining strong community partnerships over the years have increased our success in the development of recreational facilities as well as our mission for improving the quality of life for our citizens.”

The North Fork Riverfront Development Project will be home to a water trail that will allow tubers and kayakers to access the river and float directly to the heart of downtown. Other extensive park improvements, walking and biking trails, and an outdoor amphitheater are also planned.

Water quality will be another large component of this regional partnership. The LENRD awarded Norfolk Public Schools with a grant to start a Watershed Dynamics Program. Jonathan Anderson, FFA Advisor with Norfolk Public Schools, along with their science and agriculture departments, are teaming up to partner with the City of Norfolk and the LENRD to collect data and analyze the water quality of the Elkhorn River. The Watershed Team will focus on three locations on the North Fork of the Elkhorn River and will collect samples at different times of the year to help with analysis.

Sousek added, “The LENRD’s investment in the riverfront development project is about building an environment that will bring people back to northeast Nebraska. The economic benefits that this project will have for this area will be monumental and we’re excited to be a part of it.”