Big Mac plan is a go; Game and Parks raises all park entry fees
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Big Mac plan is a go; Game and Parks raises all park entry fees

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The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission approved a two-decade, multimillion development plan for Lake McConaughy and Lake Ogallala at its meeting Friday in Ponca.

The plan is expected to transform Nebraska's largest lake, Lake McConaughy in Keith County, boost its on-shore amenities and place new restrictions on about half the area's beloved beaches.

The goal is to better manage visitors and natural resources at McConaughy and nearby Lake Ogallala, improving safety while preserving the lakes' recreational appeal. They draw nearly 1 million visitors annually.

No price estimate has been attached to the project, but it's expected to cost millions.

Game and Parks has already set aside $2 million for improvements over the next two years. That money was raised through park permit fees and similar sources, but additional funds could come from private donors and federal grants.

Also Friday, the commission raised vehicle entry fees. The new resident permit fees are $30 for an annual, $6 for a daily and $15 for a duplicate annual. The permit fees for vehicles not registered and licensed in Nebraska are $45 for an annual, $8 for a daily, and $22.50 for a duplicate annual. All of these park entry fees are scheduled to become effective on Jan. 1, 2017.

In addition, the commission:

* Authorized one bighorn sheep auction permit and one bighorn sheep lottery permit for 2017;

* Approved buying 57 acres of land adjacent to Platte River State Park;

* Changed the fee schedule for the Nebraska Game and Parks Outdoor Education Center in Lincoln, lowering some firearm range fees and annual passes and creating monthly passes to accommodate new and beginning shooters;

* Approved its 2017 meeting schedule: Jan. 19-20, Lincoln; March 16-17, Grand Island; April 20-21, Norfolk; June 21-22, Scottsbluff; Aug. 16-17, North Platte; and Oct. 19-20, Omaha;

* Rejected a staff recommendation to change the start of shooting hours for upland game and webless migratory birds (rail, snipe, woodcock, dove, grouse, pheasant, quail, partridge, cottontail and squirrel) from 30 minutes before sunrise to sunrise.

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