The past determines the future

Cole Creek MapOmaha, Neb., is located within the Papio Watershed, which is subject to sudden and dangerous flood events. The same streams in this watershed that are a danger to life and property during flood events are also a great asset for the community. One of the recommendations in Omaha’s Urban Design Element calls for the enhancement of the Papio Creek waterways as a citywide public park and recreation system.

The Cole Creek Project is the start of that enhancement. Cole Creek begins south of Sorensen Parkway in the northwest section of the city known as the Benson-Ames Alliance and flows into the Little Papillion Creek near the intersection of Cass and 78th streets.

The project is a collaborative effort involving the City of Omaha Department of Public Works; the City of Omaha Department of Parks, Recreation and Public Property; Roncalli Catholic High School; Douglas County; the Benson-Ames Alliance; Big Muddy Workshop; Hayes Environmental L.L.C.; Lamp, Rynearson & Associates; Olsson Associates; and Omaha by Design.

Omaha by Design, an initiative of the Omaha Community Foundation, facilitates partnerships between the public and private sectors to execute projects that improve the quality of the natural and built environments throughout the metro area. Since the Urban Design Element was added to the city’s master plan in 2004, Omaha by Design has focused its efforts on facilitating the implementation of its 73 recommendations.

Omaha is certainly not the first city to undertake an effort like The Cole Creek Project. Kansas City, Denver and Tulsa, to name a few, have used their stormwater protection systems and flood safety improvement to enhance park systems along their waterways.

Similar design techniques used in Omaha have the power to transform the experience of the Papio waterways, causing investors and developers to site their buildings to take advantage of these natural assets.