WAHOO, Neb. — The idea was to let area residents see the state's newest playground before it was besieged by the rest of the state.
Not only did people show up, they gave Lake Wanahoo a thumb's up.
“It's going to be great having something like this so close,” said Corey Wagner of Wahoo.
Wagner and sons — Evan, Eli and Elliot — were all out at the lake Thursday evening to catch a sneak peek of Lake Wanahoo State Recreation Area. The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission will officially open the recreation area at 8 a.m. Saturday. The Lower Platte North Natural Resources District organized a two-hour open house at Lake Wanahoo on April 26 so area residents could see the park before the opening.
Eli Wagner said he couldn't wait to cast his line into the lake. While certain he would catch something, he wasn't quite as sure how big of a fish he'd be able to land.
“I don't know,” he said. “It'll be pretty big, I bet.”
Tammy and Mark Ramaeker made the seven-mile journey south Thursday evening to see Wanahoo.
“It's wonderful to have something like this inside of Saunders County,” Tammy Ramaeker said.
The rural Cedar Bluffs couple have driven past the project many times while it has been under construction. Still, actually being able to get inside of the gates was a new experience.
It was not what Tammy Rameker expected.
“It's much bigger once you get inside,” she said.
Her husband agreed. He said being able to see the camping areas, fishing piers and other amenities explains why the project needed so much construction time.
“You don't always realize what is all involved; you just think why is it talking so long to open,” he said.
Saunders County Supervisor Leroy Hanson of Ceresco knew there was a lot involved with the project. He had been on site at least three times during the construction process.
But standing a short distance from the fishing pier on the west side of the lake, he said the completed project was more than he could have imagined from those previous visits.
“It's above and beyond what I had in my mind,” he said.
Hanson said he expects to be bringing his 6-year old grandson to the lake this summer to go fishing.
“It's good family recreation,” he added.
Saunders County Supervisor Doris Karloff of Yutan was also at the lake for the sneak peek. She too was very excited to finally see the gates open on a project she's been watching for years.
“I think it's a fantastic project,” she said, looking out over the new lake. “I think people will start to realize it is a hidden gem in eastern Nebraska.”
The new Lake Wanahoo superintendent is also pretty excited about another recreation area in eastern Nebraska.
Two Rivers and Lake Wanahoo Superintendent Mike Carrick said he never imagined he'd be in charge of not one but two state recreation areas.
“I'm pretty excited to be a part of this,” he said. “I've had 16 years with Nebraska Game and Parks, starting when I was a teen, and I never imagined I'd be superintendent at two state recreation areas at this point in my career.”
Carrick said Wanahoo guests would find there are a large number of recreation opportunities available at the lake.
“I think the anglers are going to be especially excited,” he said. “Game and Parks started stocking it three to four years ago, so by now those fish have had a chance to mature, and they're all of a catchable size.”