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Proposed Changes at Lake McConaughy SRA

Commission responds to public input on prosed changes to Lake McConaughy camping

LINCOLN, Neb. — The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission plans to delay consideration of the proposed recommendations to the Lake McConaughy Visitor Management plan at its Wednesday, Jan. 22 meeting.

“We have listened to local citizens, officials and business owners regarding proposed changes, and we heard you. We are going to respond,” said Director Jim Douglas. “We realize we still have important problems to solve, but we are going to take pause in the adoption of the current recommendations to consider the full array of suggestions.”

The Commission, together with local officials, park visitors and the public, has been working on a proposed plan to make Lake McConaughy State Recreation Area a better, safer family-friendly environment. The proposed plan called for changes to camping regulations to help ensure public safety and address over-crowding and over-burdened infrastructure.

The Commission hosted an informational open house at the Lake McConaughy Visitor and Water Interpretive Center on Thursday, Jan. 16 attended by hundreds and has also been accepting and reviewing public comments.

The Commission plans to create a local advisory committee to continue to develop recommendations that will be effective in creating a safe and manageable environment.

At the Jan. 22 meeting, staff will meet with commissioners about public feedback and provide a report on input received.

“Nebraskans are passionate about outdoor recreation because it is an important part of our quality of life. We appreciate the inputs we have received thus far, and we will continue to ask for suggestions on how to best move forward with the many inputs we have to achieve our common goals,” Douglas said.

Creating a better, safer, family-friendly destination.

Lake McConaughy State Recreation Area (SRA) hosted an unprecedented number of visitors in 2018 and 2019 which stressed both park infrastructure and resources and local public safety resources. In response, NGPC is partnering with Keith County Commissioners, local public safety officials and the general public on a proposed plan to reduce crowding and create higher quality experiences for all at Lake McConaughy and Lake Ogallala SRAs.

Proposed actions are subject to approval by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. If approved, proposed actions may include:

  • No overnight camping will be allowed without a reservation.
  • All available campsites must be reserved in advance, including all primitive and beach camping.
  • Reservations can be made online up to 90 days in advance of a stay.
  • Depending on seasonal water levels, approximately 600 campsites will be designated throughout the two parks. This will include campsites on designated beach areas. Given current projections, the reservoir will be full and the amount of beach will be very limited.
  • Each campsite has a 14-day occupancy limit
  • Reservations are expected to become available for 2020 in March.
  • Reservations can be made 24/7 through Reserve America App, at http://outdoornebraska.gov/reservations/ or by calling (402) 471-1414 (weekdays 9 to 6 CT).
  • Specific day-use areas will be available and will not require a reservation, but occupancy numbers will be regulated. Camping is not allowed on these areas. Parking is limited to designated areas.
  • All camping regulations will be strictly enforced and there will be increased law enforcement presence at the recreation areas.
  • NGPC is researching regulation changes to prohibit alcohol possession at the SRAs.
  • Valid state park entry permits are required for all resident and non-resident vehicles. Park guests are encouraged to buy their park permits online in advance.
  • NGPC is continuing to improve services at the lake including new and improved facilities, campgrounds, roads and interpretive programming.
  • If occupancy is full, Nebraska has 75 other state park and recreation areas to choose from. For a full list of recreation areas go to http://outdoornebraska.gov/parks/
  • Additional local overnight accommodations can be found at http://www.ilovelakemac.com.

A 20-year master plan for Lake McConaughy and Lake Ogallala was adopted in October 2016. This plan puts forth solutions to problems that have been identified by an advisory committee, park users and interested citizens. The plan addresses solutions to lack of facilities for large crowds, heavy beach usage on weekends and holidays, law enforcement presence, and the protection of the threatened and endangered species that use the beaches.

Questions or Comments

The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission is accepting questions and public comments regarding proposed management changes.

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