NORFOLK, Neb. (KCAU) — A groundbreaking ceremony was held Tuesday morning in Johnson Park, officially marking the start of the North Fork Riverfront Project.

According to a release, the project includes the removal of a 6’ drop structure and a 6’ spillway at the bridge on First Street and installing eight, 18” drop points between the railroad bridge and the take-out point immediately south of the newly, redeveloped Norfolk Avenue bridge.

“One of the largest quality-of-life investments in Norfolk’s history, this project reenergizes the very place that first gave life to our community, utilizes our natural resources to promote outdoor recreation and tourism, and acts as a catalyst to private reinvestment that is already transforming downtown Norfolk into one of the state’s most unique, vibrant mixed-use environments,” said Norfolk Mayor Josh Moenning.

The release stated the Johnson Park revitalization plan focuses on the rehabilitation of a park that was “once considered an integral part of Norfolk’s economic and cultural identity.” The plan will include varying degrees of grading to provide ADA access to the river, introduce additional parking, provide for enhanced festival space, and cultivate the expansion of youth amenities. The introduction of an amphitheater with a permanent stage and grass seating for hundreds will provide an outdoor venue for concerts, plays, and ceremonies in Norfolk.

“What we’re trying to do is attract young people that live in communities throughout Northeast Nebraska, to give them an option to come to Norfolk and start their career in the hopes that they’re able to move back to the family farm and raise their grandkids in Randolph, in Neligh, in Wayne, and in Humphrey. This is bigger than Norfolk this is about the area. Norfolk is investing in our core, we are putting money to the place that our community started,” said Nebraska First District Congressman Mike Flood.

The project is being funded by a combination of grant resources, keno funds, and private sector donations.