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Levi Carter Park

Location: 809 Carter Lake Shore Drive  
Size:  519.5 Acres
Facilities:  The major attraction possessed by this park is Levi Carter Lake, which provides opportunities for water-skiing, fishing, and boating.  The park also has sports facilities including two baseball fields, two football fields, and two basketball courts.  Paths, picnic areas, shelters, restrooms, a pavilion, and open space are just a few of the other amenities within Levi Carter Park adding to its appeal.

Photo of Levi Carter Park PavilionHistory:  The oxbow lake that formed north of the city when the Missouri River changed course in 1877 was first known as Cut-Off Lake.  It soon became valued as a commercial and recreational resource.  The South Omaha meatpackers Swift and Armour were among those who located ice cutting and warehousing operations along the northern banks of the lake.  Attracted by its water-related recreational advantages, a beach resort with a large boathouse and two-story pavilion, a Rod and Gun Club, and a YMCA camp had all settled on the lake shores by 1906.

Omaha industrialist Levi Carter, owner of the Carter White Lead Works in nearby East Omaha, became interested in Cut-Off Lake for different reasons.  He passed this land daily going to and from his business and was among the first to see its desirability for park and boulevard purposes.

In 1908, three years after Carter’s death, his widow donated $50,000 to the city to acquire lakefront lands for a public park memorializing her husband.  Terms of the donation stipulated that Cut-Off Lake, also known at that time as Lake Nakoma, be officially named Carter Lake.

The Park Commissioners were not looking to add to their holdings in the northern section of the city; Miller, Fontenelle and Kountze Parks were already in place but they welcomed Mrs. Carter’s offer.  A number of citizens objected to the proposal which required the City to provide matching funds to develop the property; they felt the City money would be better spend improving existing park properties.

A 1908 Commission report states that “by the acquisition of this park Omaha is given a beautiful body of water with possibilities for aqua sports and recreation.”  In the 20 years since Omaha’s first parks were developed, more active forms of leisure activity had become popular.  The Board’s interest in the lake property reflected this shift in attitude about the purpose of parks. The earlier focus was on the quite enjoyment of picturesque scenery but now there was a new emphasis on the provision of facilities for more active activities, such as swimming, golf, tennis and baseball.

In 1908, Mrs. Carter donated funds for Levi Carter Park; she also married Edward Cornish, an Omaha attorney who had served on the Park Commission.  After moving from Omaha in 1911, the Cornishes continued to play an active role in the development of Levi Carter Park through gifts of property and funds for improvement projects.

In 1989, $1 million was expended to upgrade Levi Carter’s facilities.  This park was the first one to benefit from the Major Park Rehabilitation philosophy initiated by the Department of Parks, Recreation and Public Property in 1988.

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Last Updated: 09/19/2007 12:22 PM

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