Big upgrades, big year underway at Chadron State Park

A family gathers at the "Turtle," one of the Chadron State Park's 16 rustic cabins that were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. In addition to interior improvements, the cabins have been getting new tan siding. (NGPC/Justin Haag)

CHADRON, Neb. — A big year calls for big improvements for Nebraska’s first state park.

Chadron State Park, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2021, has been the subject of sizable upgrades and new construction at points throughout its 977 acres.

“This is a special year for us, and I’m thankful for those who have worked to make sure the park is in tip-top shape come summer,” said Gregg Galbraith, park superintendent.
Perhaps the most noticeable project is the construction of an indoor archery and pellet gun range between the park’s office and the recently renovated Trading Post activities center.

The 3,100-square-foot range will include both three-dimensional and bulls-eye archery targets, and a five-station pellet gun range with a carnival-style shooting gallery.

A large fire pit is being constructed near the new building to serve as a gathering place for educational and group activities, and new playground equipment is being installed for children.

Chadron State Park’s new indoor archery and pellet gun range is under construction. It is located between the office and Trading Post activities center. (NGPC/Justin Haag)

As part of a multi-year project, upgrades continue on the park’s 16 rustic cabins that were constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. Each of the rustic cabins have received new cupboards and countertops, and all but one has a new ceiling. Visitors are sure to notice the cabins have started receiving new siding, with a tan color scheme, and that screen has been removed from porches to facilitate gathering outside.

Two cabins – one of the six modern duplex units and one of the rustics – have been reconfigured for handicapped-accessibility.

Also on the lodging front, the park’s campground has received a new concrete showerhouse to replace the old one. In addition, 25 campsites are being upgraded to 50-amp electrical service. New prefabricated vault toilets recently were added near the basic tent camping area and near the Pinecone Shelter at the center of the park.

The Group Event Center, a popular facility for meetings, wedding receptions and other events, is among the list of recent improvements, with new flooring, paint, a reconfigured kitchen, storage and upgrades for handicapped accessibility.

The park recently received an upgrade to improve its electrical capacity. And, extensive pine thinning through the years has lessened the risk of damage from wildfires.

The campground at Chadron State Park has a new showerhouse. (NGPC/Justin Haag)

Not including the forestry work, the list of improvements totals more than $1.6 million. The funding has come from a variety of sources, including park permits and fees, grants, Nebraska’s LB309 Task Force for Building Renewal, the Nebraska Outdoor Recreational Development Act and the Game and Parks Commission’s Capital Maintenance Fund.

Another project Galbraith hopes to see completed soon is the resurfacing of the park’s 5.6 miles of asphalt roads. The project is opening to bid for contractors in February, and the start and completion dates are to be determined.

“Game and Parks has invested a lot of time and resources into making Chadron State Park better, and visitors are sure to appreciate the improvements for years to come,” Galbraith said.

The superintendent is hopeful that all of the major construction will be complete and that the coronavirus will allow the park’s anniversary celebration to go off without a hitch June 11-12.

Because of the special anniversary, the event has been expanded to a two-day affair to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the entire park system.

New playground equipment will greet children at Chadron State Park this summer. (NGPC/Justin Haag)

“It’s going to be a great celebration,” Galbraith said. “We’ve had a committee planning it for over a year.”

Galbraith said people need not wait until the weather warms up to enjoy the park.

“Winter provides opportunities to enjoy the park when it’s less crowded,” he said. “Whether you are sledding, snowshoeing, cross country skiing, or just walking the dog and taking in the views, winter is always a great time to visit the park. Come out and see all of the improvements.”

A new vault toilet near the Pinecone Shelter is one of two recently installed in the park. (NGPC/Justin Haag)