CROFTON — Over 50 years ago, a group of Omaha businessmen had a dream.

Along the bluffs of the Missouri River and the banks of Lewis & Clark Lake, an area dubbed the Devils Nest — because it was a well-known hideout for bank robbers back in the 1800s — would be developed into a recreation area.

Construction began in 1964. In 1970, then-Gov. Norbert Tiemann described Devils Nest as the future entertainment capital of Northeast Nebraska. A $100 million project was proposed.

It was supposed to contribute to the area in many ways through the economy and employment. Lots were platted, purchased and visions of dollar signs danced in almost everyone’s head.

But the dream wasn’t to be.

Today, a new group of investors, Devils Nest II, managed by Monda Thompson, is reviving the dream.

At a meeting in Crofton recently investors made public new plans with a path for a successful future.

Cleanup and surveying have led to new areas of development and platted with one-acre lots. The owners estimate 50 new lots will be for sale in the near future. Since 2013 nine lots have been sold, two lots have added new home construction and five lots are expected to have construction start in the next year.

“The Devils Nest project is good for so many reasons for Northeast Nebraska,” Thompson said.

It is an area known to sportsmen for hunting, and enhancing it with camping and boating opportunities will enable it to be a successful project for years to come.

Along with the new developments, the nest owners have contracted with Eisenbraun Engineering of Yankton, S.D., to develop a plan for a marina and are working with the US Army Corps of Engineers on the permit process.

The latest progress has been to join forces with Nebraska Roots of Ainsworth to plan a strategy for change at Devils Nest. They have formed a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation, the Devils Nest Finance and Education Association, to accept donations and create a system of accountability for the investors and their capital investments.”

“One of the areas we work in is building rural economies,” said Deena Province of Nebraska Roots said. “As I toured the property, I could see so many possibilities.”

Together, the two groups are researching development and networking to find successful marketing strategies. The education side of the project proposes projects to educate children through programs offered by the Nebraska Game & Parks Commission.

“This area has great potential to be a hub of tourism in Northeast Nebraska,” Province said. “The geography of the area from grassland to cliffs to marshlands can offer educational opportunities to all ages.”

Province is also researching grant opportunities to improve the roads and promote tourism.

Another ambitious goal is to refurbish the Yacht Club built in the 1970s and have it house a museum for the history of the Devils Nest. The group is in negotiation with the Corps to develop a trail system and with another group to build homes for wounded veterans.

A couple of the areas for housing development like Pine Meadows and Valley View are scenic viewpoints of Lewis & Clark Lake while other areas have different topography and will be recreation destinations.

“We have been trying to think large out of the box by keeping debts low and being fiscally responsible,” Thompson said.

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