Foresight is a rare commodity in municipal affairs.
It hardly could be otherwise.
The daily grind weighs heavily on officials both elected and appointed. They
have their budgets to meet, their deadlines to make, balances to strike,
fires to extinguish. Their business in practice, if not in theory, is
today’s, not tomorrow’s, and if their mind is never far from the future,
neither is their eye ever off the present.
Yet tomorrow succeeds today with an iron certainty, and opportunities lost
are lost forever. So when a group like the Friends of the Duneland Community
Parks has not only the foresight to envision the Community Link Pathway—a
network of hike-and-bike trails with trunk lines and spur tracks throughout
the Tri Towns and north Porter County—but also the will to sell that vision
to the officials who could make it so, the Chesterton Tribune can only
applaud its effort and hope that those same officials refuse to allow the
exigencies of the present to foreclose the possibilities of the future.
More than anyone else Cliff Fleming and Gary Babcoke are the brains and the
heart behind the Community Link Pathway. Together they’ve drafted a concept
map which features both a trail connecting Dogwood Park to Westchester
Intermediate School and—more exciting still—one connecting east Chesterton
to west Chesterton via a path beneath Ind. 49.
“A ribbon,” as Babcoke has called it, “of parks, open areas, and
As the name of their group intimates, however—changed recently from the more
parochial Friends of the Chesterton Parks—the Friends of the Duneland
Community Parks have a vision as comprehensive as it is ambitious: a network
which would one day allow an intrepid bicyclist to pedal from Portage to
Chesterton on the Duneland Prairie Trail, and thence to Duneland Cove or
Coffee Creek Center; or thence to Mt. Baldy, via Porter’s proposed link
between the Prairie Duneland Trail and the Calumet Trail; or thence to
Lakeland Park in Burns Harbor; or thence to Sunset Hill Park in Liberty
In short, from county line to county line, and never the need to share the
trail with a car or a truck or a bus.
But Fleming and Babcoke will need more than a clap on the back and words of
encouragement to bring the Community Link Pathway to pass. They will need
easements and money. They will need the actions of officials and the
cooperation of developers. And they will need a lot of good will, to
persuade property owners of the value of co-existing with hikers and bikers,
and a spot of good luck, if only to beat subdividers to the punch.
So far the Friends have made a promising start. They’ve had productive
meetings with officials in Porter and Burns Harbor. They’ve convinced the
Porter Park Board to amend its five-year master plan to reference a
“Community Link Pathway.” And they’ve secured a pledge from developer John
Mastile for an easement on two parcels in the First Addition to Parkview
Place, should the trail from Dogwood to WIS happen to pass through that
subdivision. Meanwhile, Porter continues independently to pursue its dream
of a link between the Prairie Duneland and Calumet trails.
Twenty years from now, as our children and their children are tramping half
the county in safety and comfort, we could well have the hindsight to
commend the foresight of Fleming and Babcoke and the Friends.
Or—20 years from now, as our children and their children are risking life
and limb merely to get from Point A to Point B within the corporate limits
of Chesterton itself—we could have hindsight to wonder just how our
officials managed to squander the foresight of a couple of visionaries.