Questions of the Week – Readers ask about East Hill work, Judge Gless, fire station, zoning and the Cowboy Trail

The following questions were asked recently by inquiring readers:


Q: I drove down Sixth Street in York on Sunday and was taken aback by how East Hill Park looks like it has been hit by a bomb. The tennis courts are dug up, the playing field is dug up, the playground is even dug up. What on earth is going on there?

A: This is a massive project in which turf is being put in for the playing field area, new tennis courts are being created and new, safer playground equipment will be installed. This is all part of a project which will be funded through LB357 funds (the city’s extra ½% sales tax which is specifically for certain earmarked projects).


Q: Thank you for the story about Judge Gless. I hadn’t heard he had passed away. I worked in the courthouse for many years and I knew him well. I retired and then he retired and it’s been quite a while since we saw each other. My question, if you know, is where did he live after he retired?

A: Judge Alan Gless continued to live in Seward, until the time of his death. He was also the district judge in Seward County, while he served on the bench in York County.


Q: At what point is the project for the new fire station in York?

A: The project is still in the design phase, although York Fire Chief Tony Bestwick said this past week the design concept is pretty much ready to be presented to the city council, which will happen in the near future.


Q: Is there any indication as to when the county commissioners will be making any final decisions regarding zoning regulations for solar projects? It seems like this has been going on forever without any decisions.

A: The process was temporarily halted upon the sudden and unexpected death of Commissioner Stan Boehr, as the county board members said they wanted to have a full five-member board make the final decisions. The public hearing was postponed, upon Commissioner Boehr’s death with the intent to wait until someone was appointed to fulfill his term. It is expected the hearing will be set for late May or early June.


Q: With all these signs popping up around York, with I guess some people saying they don’t want the trail system in York to be expanded because they are worried about issues with crime, I just wanted to bring up the fact there is a major trail system in Nebraska called the Cowboy Trail. The Cowboy Trail follows an old railroad route, as far as I understand it, and from the research I’ve done, there have been no reports of murder or other awful happenings along that trail. In fact, the majority of everything I’ve read about the Cowboy Trail says it has been considered to be a positive asset for the communities along its path. Can you do a little research for us regarding the Cowboy Trail, as far as how long it is and other details?

A: The Cowboy Trail is one of the largest Rails-To-Trails projects in the United States. Beginning in Norfolk it spans 321 miles west to Chadron. The trail is developed between Norfolk and Valentine, consisting of 187 miles of crushed limestone surfacing. According to Nebraska Game and Parks, an additional 15 miles of trail was recently developed between Gordon and Rushville.

Game and Parks says some communities along the trail provide camping and all walkers/bikers are welcome to use their amenities, which are located about 10 to 15 miles apart.

Game and Parks officials say of the trail, “Regardless of where you enter and exit, travel the Cowboy Trail and you will soon be immersed in nature. The 8-foot wide ribbon of crushed limestone and wooden bridges cut through a right-of-way, normally 100-feet wide, which provides important cover for wildlife and pockets for native prairie plants. While species differ along the route, rabbits, ground squirrels, pheasants, quail and many songbirds find suitable habitat through much of the trail’s course.

“The corridor is alive with the sounds and sights of creatures, large and small, often missed by travelers in closed cars moving at 60 or 65 mph. Bald eagles patrol the Elkhorn River valley and, farther west, turkey vultures soar on thermals above the Niobrara River. The corridor also functions as an important migration route for wildlife between habitat areas. In 2015, milkweed, which is essential for migrating monarch butterflies, was planted along several stretches of the trail.”

Game and Parks officials say bridges are a highlight of the trail, with high points providing “spectacular views. East of Valentine, the former railroad bridge – a 1/4-mile long and 148 feet high – spans the Niobrara River. Another bridge at Long Pine stretches 595 feet long and stands 145 feet high over Long Pine Creek.”


Q: How do young people become legislative pages at the Unicameral?

A: Pages are local college students who are employed by the Nebraska Legislature to respond to senators’ requests for assistance on the legislative floor, answer incoming calls to the chamber and prepare for and assist with committee hearings. Contact the clerk’s office at (402) 471-2271 to inquire about the program or request an application.


Q: With the discussions about the need for more space at the elementary school, I was wondering if the surge of young kids is due to non-citizens (illegal immigrants) now living here.

A: The latest statistics show 99.2% of York County residents are United States citizens.

Further statistics from Data USA says census indications, as of 2021, are that 1.38% of York County residents were born outside of the country (195 people).


Q: How many students attend York University?

A: According to figures from the university, there are 425 undergraduate students and 175 graduate students.


Q: For York County, three commissioners are up for election in one election year and then two years later, the other two are up for election. Who determined that’s how it was supposed to work?

A: State Statute 32-528 outlines the election process for five-member county boards in Nebraska. This calls for three commissioners to be up for election in one year and then the other two, two years later.

The statute says, “In counties having a county board of five commissioners, three commissioners shall be elected at the statewide general election in 1994 and each four years thereafter, and two commissioners shall be elected at the statewide general election in 1996 and each four years thereafter.”


Q: When I was in college, I worked at a Bonanza restaurant in Kearney and I remember how there were many Bonanzas around Nebraska at that time, back in the late 1980s. People loved Bonanzas, they were extremely popular. My question is what happened to the restaurant chain?

A: Oh, Bonanza. It was a popular restaurant. This writer also worked at the Bonanza in Kearney back in the late 1980s. This writer was the salad bar lady in the evenings and even graduated to being allowed to make soup from scratch (despite a lot of disgruntled looks from the seasoned cook in the kitchen who obviously did not approve). Anyway, here’s the story behind the restaurant chain, including its demise.

Apparently, back in 1963, Dan Blocker, who played Eric Cartright on the television show with the same name, opened up the first Bonanza restaurant in Westport, Connecticut. By 1989, the restaurant chain had over 600 locations around the United States.

At the same time, in 1965, the Ponderosa Steakhouse chain was created, with restaurants in the United States and Canada.

The two companies merged in 1997 when they bought the Metromedia Family Steakhouses chain.

In 2008, that company filed for bankruptcy and in 2009 emerged with a new name, Homestyle Dining LLC.

In the middle of all that change and bankruptcy, the Bonanza restaurants we knew and loved disappeared.


Q: How long will the art display remain at the Palmer Museum?

A: The art-themed display will remain open to the public at the Palmer Museum through the summer.



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