Neighbors concerned with RV parked under west Omaha bridge

Neighbors are concerned about what's happening on public property in a west Omaha neighborhood that's hidden from view.
Published: Oct. 11, 2022 at 10:43 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Neighbors are concerned about what’s happening on public property in a west Omaha neighborhood that’s hidden from view.

It’s not a resort where a recreational vehicle was parked, but under a busy bridge near 168th and Nicholas that hundreds of vehicles pass over every day. An area out of sight but not out of mind for nearby neighbors.

“I came out with my dogs, it was 8:30, it was dark,” neighbor Geri Whitmarsh said. “Someone came out of there on a motorcycle and drove off. I watched and wondered, what was that person doing down there.”

At the end of the street, a narrow road leads through the trees and brush to a sheltered area under the bridge. The camper with no plates or back tire looked more abandoned than occupied. But there’s plenty of evidence this spot is a gathering place.

“People who don’t even live around this area go down there sometimes,” neighbor Emil Janda said. “I don’t have any idea what they’re doing down there, but probably up to no good.”

The pathway gives access to Public Works for bridge inspections, but blocking it from the public likely won’t work.

“Doesn’t matter if it’s chains or gates,” said Public Works Assistant Director Todd Pfitzer said. “The fencing we use is pretty robust, it’s some good stuff, and they hook a vehicle to it with a chain and rip it out or they cut through it and they’re right back in there. So that’s not proven to be a good use of our money.”

The entrance to the narrow road has a partially camouflaged warning of no dumping by order of the Sheriff.

Deputies don’t have time to constantly patrol that isolated wooded area. But there’s a way they can see the forest from the trees.

The Sheriff’s Office has a camera system more clandestine than this one.

“We can hide a concealable camera that has a notification system on it so when somebody goes into that area, it will automatically start taking video and it can send that signal to patrol units and let them know that somebody is there,” Douglas County Sheriff Chief Deputy Wayne Hudson said.

That abandoned camper sat under the bridge for weeks. Long enough for graffiti artists to make it a metal canvas. It’s gone now but neighbors worry something else will bring strangers to what’s under the bridge.

“It’s kind of scary, especially since I’m down here and the last house on the road,” neighbor Geri Whitmarsh added.

During the summer bridges around the metro have been popular for illegal dumping and also makeshift camping by the homeless. Public Works says city crews are often called in to clean up a mess left behind which pulls them off other projects.