HARTINGTON — After nearly 18 years of welcoming travelers to Northeast Nebraska and the surrounding area, the Corps of Discovery Welcome Center on Highway 81 is closing.
It was a project that sought to offer a rest stop with a view of the Missouri River for travelers passing through the area and a place where people could learn more about northeast Nebraska tourism attractions.
The Center is located on the west side of Hwy. 81 a mile south of the bridge that crosses into Yankton.
Typically during the winter, it closed from Dec. 23 through the end of February, but at a Board of Directors meeting Jan. 31, it was decided the Center will close and the property will go back to the Nebraska Department of Transportation.
The action had been contemplated for a while, as other options were explored, but no other options seemed practical, said Board member Gary Kimm.
Kimm, a former president of the Corps of Discovery Welcome Center, is one of the group’s founding members.
Kimm said the ball started rolling when the Board received a $20,000 grant from the state of Nebraska as part of the LB144 partnership. It allowed for an architect Glenn Mannes to be hired to develop a design for the building.
That design was made into a model that was taken around to help interest investors and raise money for the project.
As the structure was built and the project took life, funding began to dry up as grants became more dif cult to secure, Kimm said.
The Lewis & Clark NRD was an early supporter of the welcome center, helping secure the location for the building.
“The NRD originally sponsored the grant that provided the building for the welcome center,” said Lewis & Clark NRD General Manager Annette Sudbeck. “Then in the past, we worked with the Department of Transportation for the air space lease to give the Welcome Center access to that building.”
The NRD ultimately took on a bigger role over the years as funding dried up. It was reportedly meant as a short- term solution but struggles to nd a long-term replacement for funding complicated matters.
“We never intended to be financial support, we tried to be the man in the middle but that got further and further apart over the years,” said Sudbeck.
When discussing the closing, Kimm made it sound like there are still quite a few questions to be answered.
There is another meeting Feb. 15, where some final matters will need to be decided on, but Kimm was hesitant to call it the final meeting, saying “it appears to be” but he wasn’t sure if the Board would continue to convene after the closing of the Corps of Discovery Welcome Center.
With the Nebraska Department of Transportation taking back the land where the Welcome Center resides, Kimm did not have an answer on whether the rest spot parking area, the hiking trails or any of the amenities would be open under DOT control.
According to Sudbeck, the Department of Transportation was originally supposed to take control of the property upon completion of the building’s construction, but she was unclear as to why that never took place.
Now with it falling back under DOT control, Kimm shared that the Board received a notice to vacate the building before Feb. 28.
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