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APA Nebraska Announces Beltline Trail Master Plan as Planning Excellence Award Winner

RDG’s Kene Okigbo (second from right), joined by Dan Dolezal of EGA (far left), Eric Williams of the Papio NRD (second from left), and Stephanie Rouse, APA Nebraska President (far right) at the APA Nebraska awards ceremony.
RDG’s Kene Okigbo (second from right), joined by Dan Dolezal of EGA (far left), Eric Williams of the Papio NRD (second from left), and Stephanie Rouse, APA Nebraska President (far right) at the APA Nebraska awards ceremony.
OMAHA, NE — The American Planning Association Nebraska Chapter (APA Nebraska) has recognized the Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District's (Papio NRD) Beltline Trail Master Plan with its 2024 Planning Excellence Award. This annual award acknowledges planning's essential role in addressing desires, needs, or challenges within a community, county, region, or specific geographic location.

Winning entries are chosen based on outcomes and the demonstration of how planning helps to create stronger, more equitable communities. Representatives from RDG Planning & Design, which partnered to develop the plan, joined representatives from Papio NRD and Ehrhart Griffin and Associates (EGA) to receive the award during a recent ceremony.

The Beltline Trail Master Plan for North Omaha, Nebraska, serves as a trailblazing initiative, especially noteworthy given the historical context of the community. Notably, North Omaha has the highest density of Black and African American-identifying citizens in the metropolitan area. The trail's fundamental purpose — equitable access to active transportation — takes on a renewed importance in a community that has historically been devoid of this type of investment in active transportation infrastructure.

This purpose underscores the project's significance, providing an effective solution to address health and environmental concerns and historical disparities in urban development. By aligning with the Center for Disease Control's findings on the health benefits of trail infrastructure, the project addresses critical issues such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes while promoting environmental well-being through reduced air pollution.

"We're really honored to be a part of this project. Contributing toward the equitable advancement of North Omaha in a way that will substantively impact the quality of life for its residents is powerful," said RDG Landscape Architect Kene Okigbo, PLA, ASLA. "This award from APA Nebraska is a testament to the collaborative effort and dedication of everyone involved, from the design team, the City of Omaha Parks, Recreation, and Public Property Department, the Papio NRD and most importantly, the North Omaha community."

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Participation in the APA Nebraska Awards program helps increase awareness of planning and its impact on people and their environments. The Planning Excellence Award encompasses multiple categories within the field, including best practices, grassroots initiatives, public outreach, communications initiatives, transportation planning, environmental planning, urban design, and innovation in economic planning and development. As a professional organization, APA Nebraska encompasses approximately 150 members, including practicing planners, elected and appointed officials, academicians, citizens who care about planning, and students.

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