Read more about Memorial Day plans, observances and activities:
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More beach, less water.
Sunny weather in the forecast.
Every campsite that can be reserved, booked.
To Bill Oligmueller, that all points to a busy start to the summer season at Lake McConaughy.
“There's a lot of people more excited about the amount of beach we will have this year,” said Oligmueller, superintendent of the state recreation area near Ogallala, Neb.
He's expecting about 25,000 visitors this Memorial Day weekend, about 2,000 more than last year when the lake's water level was a bit higher and covered more beach. He said McConaughy still has about 200 first-come, first-serve campsites available.
Nebraska and Iowa state parks officials are expecting the warm weather and lower gas prices to attract people to state parks.
In Nebraska, Memorial Day weekend is traditionally the busiest for the 78 state parks and recreation areas.
Officials hope this weekend follows the year's early pattern: more people.
For the first four months of 2012, park permit sales are up about 25 percent compared with the same period last year, said Roger Kuhn, administrator for the state parks division.
Last year by the end of April, 91,515 annual, daily and duplicate permits had been sold. So far this year, 115,325 permits have been purchased.
That's despite a $5 increase in the cost of an annual permit, which is now $25.
Iowa parks officials think attendance there is up as well thanks to the warmer weather, although no numbers were available, said Mick Klemesrud, spokesman for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.
Both states also will debut a few improvements.
Medicine Creek State Recreation Area near Cambridge, Neb., will have two new cabins available, Kuhn said.
And, this will be the first Memorial Day weekend for the Lake Wanahoo State Recreation Area near Wahoo that opened late last month. Located roughly 30 minutes from both Omaha and Lincoln, it is expected to be a premier fishing destination in eastern Nebraska.
Kuhn also predicted a swarm of people at Mahoney State Park near Ashland, the state's busiest park and the state's second-most-popular tourist attraction behind Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium.
In Iowa, the scenic road in Ledges State Park near Ames might reopen this weekend after being flooded, Klemesrud said.
About 50 seasonal employees have spruced up Iowa's state parks — mowed the lawns, cleaned out the fire rings and painted restrooms.
Thursday, Lake McConaughy, Nebraska's biggest lake, was 81 percent full, Oligmueller said.
Last year at this time, the lake was 95 percent full.
“We have a lot of people already on the beach camping that were not able to do that last year,” he said.
To prepare for the weekend, he said, workers have mowed the grass, pulled out more trash bins and made sure the lake's eight boat ramps are at proper levels.
“Basically, just grooming the park,” Oligmueller said. “We expect to have a very busy weekend.”
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A year after floods, public ramps open
Nearly one year to the day after floodwaters swamped N.P. Dodge Park, the boat ramps providing access to the Missouri River will reopen just in time for Memorial Day weekend.
Both boat ramps in the park located north of Interstate 680 on John J. Pershing Drive will be open to the public at 3:30 p.m. today. The ramps and the park's marina have been closed due to flooding since May 27, 2011.
“We're already letting boaters use the ramps — if they have a rented a slip at the marina,” said Brook Bench, Omaha's city parks maintenance manager.
“There are 50 to 60 boats already in the marina, and by letting those renters in early, we're hoping to avoid overcrowding on the ramps Friday.” Bench said gas will be for sale at the ramps, but the concession stand won't be open.
The boat ramps at N.P. Dodge Park had to cleared of the muck left by last summer's historic flooding, and crews are still working to get the rest of the park in shape. Bench estimated the city will spend $2 million to clean up the entire park, which will reopen in 2013.
There are only two others public-access boat ramps in the area — the Narrows River Park and Lake Manawa State Park, both on the Iowa side of the river in Council Bluffs.
The privately owned Sandpiper Cove Marina at Omaha's Freedom Park, which also has a boat ramp, remains closed because of flood damage. The owner couldn't be reached for comment.
In Bellevue, the City Council voted in March to permanently close its marina at Haworth Park because of repeated flooding.
The public boat ramp at Optimist River Park in Blair is open, but the nearby Cottownwood Marina was destroyed by flooding and is no longer in business. --- Kevin Cole
Places to boat
» N.P. Dodge Park, 11001 John J. Pershing Drive, Omaha, 402-444-5955
» Narrows River Park, 2500 N. 25th St., Council Bluffs, 712-323-1342
» Lake Manawa State Park, 1100 South Shore Drive, Council Bluffs, 712-366-0220
» Optimist River Park, north of U.S. Highway 30 on Dixon Road, Blair, Neb., no phone