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Gering considers purchasing local visitors’ attraction
August 28, 2014 Jerry Purvis   

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Members of the Gering City Council authorized City Administrator Lane Danielzuk to negotiate for purchase of the former Oregon Trail Wagon Train in Morrill County.

The vote came at the end of Monday’s council meeting after an extended closed session to discuss the possible purchase.

“This is a treasure that’s been in our area since before I moved here,” said Mayor Ed Mayo. “It’s a tourism attraction that has regional, national and international interest.”

The Gordon Howard family turned the property into a tourism destination as travelers stopped for steaks, cookouts, historic cabins and wagon rides. The Howards later sold the venue to Rick Bayne. It has been closed for a year since Bayne’s death.

“All of our area tourism industry has an interest in keep this venue operating,” said Karla Niedan-Streeks, executive director of the Gering Convention and Visitors Bureau. “It’s a viable asset to the entire state.”

She added that right now, the most important thing is to maintain the venue. It’s possible the property could be sold piecemeal and the attraction lost for any future tourism efforts.

“There have been a lot of discussions about private-public partnerships and other combinations for operating the attraction,” she said. “But right now it’s most important to purchase the property as a whole. We have a strong interest in it because it’s been a big experiential tourism attraction for years. It’s too important to lose for our region and our industry.”

Mayo said the Oregon Trail Wagon Train is a treasure the area can’t afford to lose. The asking price is in the $200,000 range and the city would prefer a private entity purchase the property from the city and continue operating it. However, some form of partnership would also be considered.

He offered no timeline for when the project could be wrapped up.

n In other action, council members listened to a citizen agenda item on the possibility to implement an ordinance to allow residents within city limits to keep a small number of chickens. Gering resident Ben Backus said he has received numerous comments from his Ward III neighbors about the possibility.

Backus told the council that people moving here from urban areas sometimes want to keep a small number of chickens for fresh eggs.

Backus’ proposed ordinance would allow residents to keep up to four chickens, but no roosters. The birds would also have to be kept in a covered or fenced enclosure at all times.

Council members forwarded the proposal to the Public Safety Committee for further discussion, as it would involve animal safety.

n Earlier, the Public Works Committee asked the city to come up with a map identifying unincorporated areas that are surrounded by the city. The city’s legal counsel will then determine which areas could potentially be annexed into the city.

The committee also asked for a map of all city-owned properties so they can determine if any of them could be sold.

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