The Porter County
Visitors Commission board is reviving conversations with the Town of
Chesterton and the Town of Porter to create an operational trolley system
using vintage South Shore passenger cars by pushing for a feasibility study.
The concept was
introduced to both the commission and to the Porter Town Council in October
2012 by Porter resident Sherill Newman who told of a local collector who has
procured several old cars circa 1908-1929, two miles of railroad tracks,
catenary bridges and ties and was willing to donate them if local agencies
wanted to use them for railway extensions.
Newman said then
that the service would carry riders from the Indiana Dunes Visitors Center
to parts of the Indiana Dunes State Park and the National Lakeshore.
The Porter Town
Council had embraced the concept when it was first proposed to them but did
not feel it could make the financial commitments required to move the
Director Lorelei Weimer told her board Tuesday that the collector is looking
to sell the inventory on the market unless there is action from the tourism
bureau and/or the municipalities to continue with the so-called South Shore
Train Heritage Line project. The proposal is to include stops for the line
within the Town of Porter and the Town of Chesterton, Weimer added.
include having the antique cars and tracks as a moveable or stationary
attraction. Weimer insisted that a feasibility study is needed to assess the
options in determining how the attraction could be maintained.
A study like this
one would cost $19,500, Weimer said. PCCRVC board member Chuck Williams had
suggested the cost be split evenly three ways among the visitors commission
and the two towns for $6,500 each.
Williams said he
thinks the project will be a major tourist draw for Northwest Indiana.
“It could put this
area on the map,” he said. “Part of the joy of coming to the park would be
to take the train, especially for the little kids.”
Board member and
railroad enthusiast Richard Riley, owner of Riley’s Railhouse in Chesterton,
said the municipalities have to ask themselves if they want to run the risk
of losing these pieces of local history. There have been other South Shore
cars that have been sold to collectors in different states, he said.
“Once this is gone,
it’s gone. This is our last opportunity to hang on to the heritage (the
collector) has,” Riley said.
Mitch Peters favored the project but advised it will take lots of work
between the parks and the towns for it to come together, including getting
an action from Congress to extend it into the National Lakeshore. “It’s not
going to be easy,” he said.
All board members
present voted in favor of approving $6,500 toward its share of the
feasibility study, which will come from the commission’s budget for
Weimer said she was
to appear before the Chesterton Town Council this past week to talk about
the study but was unable to attend the meeting.
In other business:
-- The board voted
unanimously to institute a ten percent late fee in agreements with local
businesses to advertise in the PCCRVC’s yearly activities guide with an
additional one percent increment for each month payment is delinquent. The
action was prompted by two businesses that had yet to settle their invoices
for appearing in this year’s guide. Part of the vote was to not allow those
two businesses to be included in any of the commission’s promotional
material until they pay their balances.
-- PCCRVC Niche
Marketing Director Angela Pasyk told the board about “Burger Wars” on social
media sites to find the finest burger in Northern Indiana. The event is an
effort among the counties in the Northern Indiana Tourism Development
Commission to have the public vote on what they believe to be the best
-- Weimer said the
south route of the Dunes-Kankakee Trail from Division Rd. down to Ind. 8 in
Kouts is being finalized although work has been difficult.
Director Christine Livingston reported good progress has been made in
collaboration with the National Park Service in the redesign of the visitor
center. A meeting took place this past week discussing different themes.
-- Riley said the
March collection of the innkeepers tax was $73,960, which is a 25.7 percent
increase on a cash basis from last year.