Smith Falls

SMITH FALLS is the highest waterfall in Nebraska at 70 feet and is located only a few miles from Valentine. 

To Larry Wewel, the history of the Niobrara River and the possible future go hand-in-hand as he steps forward with his national park dreams.

“Knowing the history of the people that came before you is critically important to me,” he said. “Then using that history to try and think forward 20, 30 or 40 years.”

The 78-year-old O’Neill resident is beginning to put pieces of the large Great Plains National Park puzzle together.

According to Wewel, a “dog-and-pony show” will be presented in Lincoln during January of next year.

“We’re going to use the state senate chamber and invite the public,” he said.

State senators and governors will be invited, as well as other constitutional officers who wish to know more about Wewel’s idea. During this presentation, he will discuss logistics and details, as well as show his plans for the park.

“I will ask, ‘What are you willing to do Legislature and government to play a role in this?’ ” he said.

Wewel also plans on having a press conference at the Omaha Press Club.

Along with his hopeful presentation and press conference, Wewel wants to attend multiple county meetings across the state to raise awareness for his dream.

“We would literally go to the county council meetings and give our presentation and invite the community through the newspapers and radio stations in the small towns to come down to a green space and we’ll feed them a bison burger and a cold beer,” he said. “All they would have to do is communicate with their state senator about the importance of this economic development.”

During Labor Day weekend next year, Wewel plans to throw a celebration in Valentine to get politicians and community members involved with the project. He said there would be food and entertainment.

“It will be a massive celebration,” Wewel said.

Social media is a big part of Wewel’s plan for the proposed national park.

“I’m working with a professional from the state of Washington now, and he’s going to be coming to Nebraska and helping me communicate this to the entire world through social media that this can be a reality,” he said.

Since the creation process for a national park is expensive, Wewel will use social media to not only raise awareness for his idea, but money as well.

He wants to have this collected money as a backup in case the state refuses to buy the land from the private owners in the Valentine and Niobrara River area.

“As I’ve said, my ideal situation would be for the state to have some buy-in in terms of the private property,” he said. “Now if they say (heck) no and (heck heck) no, then my approach would be to do this anyway because by then, I will have used social media to literally raise millions of dollars from the citizens of the United States through Facebook and other media.”

According to Wewel, all social media platforms will be used. Most of the content will be video and posted to YouTube for people to view.

“The social media will allow people from all over the world to see what the benefits (of the park) are,” he said.

In the coming months, he and the marketing professional from Washington will travel across Nebraska to hear people’s thoughts on the Great Plains National Park.

“We’re going to try and catch as many people as possible,” he said. “I’m bringing a mobile studio in order to interview people about why they think this idea is a good one.”

Although this entails tough chances and difficult odds, Wewel has no doubt in his ability to raise awareness and to accomplish the seemingly impossible feat of creating a new national park.

“I get the big picture, and now I’m collecting all the details,” he said. “My biggest dream is that we get it done sooner rather than later.”

In other news

WAYNE – Wayne State won its home opener here at Bob Cunningham Field and Memorial Stadium on Family Day at the college over Southwest Minnesota State, 19-13.