For five years, the Monument Valley Riverfront Task Force has been working on plans to develop the riverfront in Scottsbluff, Nebraska, and they recently presented their vision to the public.
Increasing recreational opportunities for the community was one of the major goals of the task force, and they propose building new mountain bike and nature trails, a two-to-three acre arboretum and botanical garden, canoe landings and fishing and boating docks along the river, as well as new historical wayside exhibits along the Monument Valley Pathways system.
Four historical trails have beaten paths along the North Platte River, and the proposed exhibits would center on those, with the goal of telling the story of the four trails — the Mormon, Oregon and California Trail and Pony Express routes.
“All four trails came on either the north or south sides of the river,” Connie McDonnough, chairperson of the subcommittee overseeing the arboretum and botanical garden portion of the taskforce, said. “We will try to tell the story of what the pioneers would have seen.”
That story will be told with trees, shrubs and grasses that would have been native to Nebraska’s regions. Prairie grasses, wildflowers, trees, such as the Lanceleaf Cottonwood and many others, will be used throughout the space.
Amy Seiler, another committee member, said, “The vision is to create what it would have looked like.” Using natural, low-maintenance plants will also accomplish another of the group’s goals of using ecologically sound principles, such as using less water.
The tale of the river and Nebraska’s history will also be told with the garden, McDonnough said. A “human influence” portion of the garden is meant to tell the story of the changes that settlers made, such as establishing dams, which impacted the landscape and resulted in the Dust Bowl. The effects of the Dust Bowl resulted in people using plants, such as Russian Olives, as landscapes. Today, the area is trying to counter the effects of those invasive species and eliminate them by bringing back native plants.
The project has already received a $40,000 Rivers and Trails Assistance Program grant for the new exhibits, and a $15,000 grant for the arboretum and gardens. The Student Senate at Scottsbluff High School will undertake a project to establish the mountain bike trails.