Erosion causing concern about safety at west Omaha park

Over time, trees have been falling into a nearby creek as the danger edges toward areas where Omaha kids play.
Published: Aug. 18, 2021 at 1:20 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Peterson Park is like many of Omaha city parks: There’s a playset and a soccer field. But unlike most, on the other side of the fence and trees, there is a treacherous drop edging closer and closer to where children play.

“It scares me. I’m scared standing right here, you know,” Wendy Sheibal said standing beside the fence.

She and her daughter Rocky drive past Peterson Park several times a week to visit family. She first noticed the drop-off beside the park a year ago.

“I think about it like, ‘Oh it’s a beautiful photography moment.’ We’re all like, ‘That tree kind of hanging with its limbs off of, you know, a cliff,’ ” Sheibal said.

But over time, she’s noticed more and more trees falling into the ravine. You can see them lying along Papillion Creek.

“I’m trying to have that concern, I don’t...I want this be a problem now so we can fix it instead of somebody falling in there and us having to deal with it then,” she said.

6 News brought the problem to Omaha Parks and Recreation. Matt Kalcevich, the parks director, says they’re aware and are monitoring the situation on a weekly basis.

“Things can change just from a small rain and the rain and intensity of things that we’ve had this summer certainly hasn’t helped with situations that are already delicate,” Kalcevich said.

Right now, his department is working with public works and city planning to come up with a solution.

Short term, they’re discussing moving the fence to create more distance between the drop and the soccer field. Long term, it’s a little more complicated.

“There are some federal funding dollars in regards to some of those major incidents that happened that we’re investigating and we’re working to try and have access to,” he explained.

If they can’t secure that, it’ll take some major city cash that could have been used for other park improvements.

“Safety concerns and dangerous elements like this will always be a top priority just to ensure things are in the best position possible so that people are able to enjoy the space we have,” Kalcevich said.

Whatever the fix is, Sheibal hopes it happens before tragedy strikes.

“We know that the issue exists, it’s a problem now and we have time to address it before somebody gets hurt,” Sheibal said. “If we don’t do anything about it and that tree goes, the ground goes, the fence or the electrical pole maybe with a child or a person with it.”

Kalcevich says they’ll continue to monitor the situation at Peterson Park and will make whatever safety changes are necessary.

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