The future of Nebraska City’s recreational fields was discussed at the November Hot Topics Wednesday morning.
Nebraska City Parks and Recreation Commissioner Patrick Wehling, City Administrator Grayson Path and City Recreation Director Scooter Edmisten talked about the planning process underway to possibly install practice fields for soccer and baseball on undeveloped Wyuka Cemetery property.
Wehling said the concept drawings that are currently being prepared by JEO will help the city  determine the cost of developing the fields.
He added that development costs would be paid for through fundraising efforts by youth sports associations and grants.
Wehling said a request to find new practice space that came from the Nebraska City Soccer Association is how the current plan began to develop.
He added that about 40 teams for players ages 10 and younger currently share the five practice fields that are available in town.
Wehling said that the city plans to begin expanding Wyuka Cemetery in the next five years to accommodate future needs.
Right now, the city has about 400 spaces available, and the city sells 30 to 40 spaces a year, he said.
Part of the plan to place practice fields on the property would also benefit the cemetery in the long run, including the construction of a restroom facility and the addition of roads through the property.
The city plans to develop three 800-plot sections southwest of the present cemetery, said Wehling, who added that the proposed soccer fields would be located on the third part of the proposed cemetery expansion, which would not be needed for burials for about 50 years.
The city and 30 to 40 youth sports coaches have been working together on the practice field plan for about a year, said Path.
Path said finding flat land for practice fields is nearly impossible in Nebraska City, and the city would like to use the cemetery property for the fields because it is fairly level already.
“We don’t want to move a lot of dirt,” said Path, “and we looked at what we can utilize without moving a lot of dirt.”
Wehling said the city is investigating different buffers, including trees or fences, to be installed between the cemetery and the practice fields.
Wehling and Path fielded questions from the audience on a wide range of topics at the end of their presentation.
In response to a question about the history of the cemetery property and land use, Path said he and Nebraska City Attorney David Partsch are currently researching deeds to the cemetery property to determine whether recreational use is prohibited.
When asked about the current use of baseball practice fields, Wehling said he created a master calendar for coaches to schedule field use for Elite teams, youth teams, and Jaycees teams on the current practice fields.
He called the addition of practice fields on the cemetery property “a bonus” while reiterating the need for youth soccer to have practice fields on city land, rather than on land that is privately owned, which is the current arrangement.
“Let’s utilize the land for youth and parks until the cemetery needs it,” he said.
Wehling expects the final drawings to be available for review by the end of the year.