The Cole Creek Project

Some view Omaha’s Cole Creek as nothing more than a drainage ditch, a nuisance that must be dealt with when local rainfall amounts are high. Others view this waterway – part of the city’s local floodplain system – as a natural asset, an opportunity to create a valuable neighborhood amenity for residents of all ages to enjoy.

The Cole Creek Project, a $1.6 million investment in the Benson-Ames Alliance, was the first to follow the City of Omaha’s Urban Design Element recommendation that calls for transforming the Papio Creek waterways into a citywide public park and recreation system. It focused on the upper portion of Cole Creek from its headwaters south of Sorensen Parkway to Hartman Avenue and was designed to stabilize the creek, improve its water quality and enhance the recreational use of Orchard Park. Now complete, the project was carried out in phases – the construction of a series of bioretention gardens to detain and cleanse stormwater runoff before it enters the creek, the restoration of the creek itself to reflect its original meandering state, and the creation of a walking trail and interpretive signage.

The project’s community outreach component continues to engage homeowners, neighborhood associations, business associations and students within the Benson-Ames Alliance in understanding their role in the local water cycle and incorporating green solutions into their daily routines.

In 2009, the Cole Creek Neighborhood Association (CCNA) was established in the area surrounding Orchard Park. The group took its name from the project. Hartman Elementary School serves as the association’s hub. In the spring of 2012, Omaha by Design partnered with Nathan Hale Middle School and the CCNA to launch the Cole Creek Adopt a Stream Team. The all-volunteer group conducts periodic clean-ups along the project site.

Project partners include the City of Omaha Departments of Public Works and Parks, Recreation and Public Property; Roncalli Catholic High School; Douglas County; Omaha by Design; the Benson-Ames Alliance; Big Muddy Workshop; Hayes Environmental LLC; Lamp, Rynearson & Associates; and Olsson Associates. It was funded by the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality and the Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District.

For more information about The Cole Creek Project, call 402.934.7055 or email