Foresighted citizens approved a bond issue in 1889 for construction of a 12 mile canal that would connect the northwest part of town to the river. This created electric power, the beginnings of an irrigation system and a man-made lake that spurred industrial, community and agricultural growth that has become the hallmark of Gothenburg's success throughout its history. By 1892, Gothenburg residents had electricity -- the first in western Nebraska -- and the canal system was providing power for numerous industries. Community volunteers cleared land and erected buildings to develop a park area adjacent to the lake in the early 1900s. The Campfire Girls dedicated Lafayette Park to the north of the lake which marked the initial development. The Boy Scouts later used the area and cabins were constructed. In 1932, the Chamber of Commerce planted 600 pine trees. In the 1950s and 60s, the lake silted in until it was redesigned and rejuvenated in the 1970s by massive volunteer labor and community support and is now a shining jewel in Gothenburg's recreation and attractions crown.
The Lake Helen Recreation Area on the north edge of Gothenburg features activities for the whole family. Citizens have used the lake for swimming, boating, ice skating and other recreational activities since its creation. Today, it boasts a two-mile long walking trail, a rustic covered bridge and foot bridge, numerous picnic shelters complete with barbecues, two sand volleyball courts, state-of-the-art playground equipment, a special war memorial and flourishing trees, flowers and shrubs. A variety of large and small lakes nearby provide good fishing and boating.
It is not only a place for community celebrations such as the Fourth of July barbecue and fireworks display, but it also attracts an abundance of waterfowl as well as eagles, pheasants and countless other birds.
Many local clubs and organizations have contributed to maintaining the beauty of Lake Helen. The impact of these multiple projects is reflected in the waters of the lake on a soft summer night as citizens and visitors stroll or jog along the path near the water's edge. It is also seen in the excited face of a youngster as she reels in her first fish. That impact shines through in the contented face of a senior citizen as he sits on a park bench at the lake feeding bread crumbs to the geese.
The story of Lake Helen continues as a public park lives on -- in continuing improvements and maintenance and also in the myriad of activities that take place there -- in the many uses this community discovers for its beautiful facility and the pride it takes in its efforts.
Address: North Lake Avenue
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