Chesterton Tribune

 

 

South county park, Raise the Barn top priorities for Park Board in 2014

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

A new year means a new set of goals for the Porter County Parks and Recreation Board.

The board compiled a list at its meeting Thursday of items to focus on that includes the new south county park just north of Kouts, the Raise-the-Barn education center at Sunset Hill Farm, the Brincka-Cross Trails and Gardens expansion, the prairie and pond restoration project at Sunset Hill and the Children’s garden and playground.

A sixth priority was added at the suggestion of board member Craig Kenworthy, to find a permanent location for farm animals at Sunset Hill Farm.

Getting the board’s commitment on the department’s goals and objectives was begun last year by Parks Superintendent Walter Lenckos. He said it helps build credibility for the department as it seeks outside funding sources for projects. Contributions and grants have been sought for the department as the County Council has not had the means to allocate sufficient funding, Lenckos said.

Board members voted 5-0, in favor of the list, feeling the items are achievable. Absent from the meeting was board member Ruth Jarnecke.

“We’ve got a lot to do and I don’t want to fall down on any of them,” said board president Rich Hudson.

Each of the six board members was chosen to champion one priority. Hudson will lead on Raise-the-Barn, David Canright on Brincka-Cross Trails and Gardens expansion, Erik Kozuszek on the Children’s Playground and Garden, Kenworthy on the new south county park, Jarnecke on the prairie-pond restoration and Annetta Jones on the farm animals program.

It was also agreed the current park committees will continue their work on land acquisition and development, marketing and communication, budget and personnel, and the recently formed farm animal committee for Sunset Hill Farm.

Kenworthy suggested that given the County’s current “budget crisis,” it would be good to keep a constant watch on what funds are incoming and what goes out.

“I think it we would be good to get a better handle of what’s happening,” Kenworthy said. “Knowledge is power.”

Canright said the Budget committee should meet earlier this year to make a report to the board so members can understand its finances.

From the audience, parks supporter and environmentalist Charlotte Read asked that the board keep moving on Brookdale County Park in Liberty Twp. and continue progress on the Calumet Trail.

Her husband Herb said he would encourage the board to keep seeking land along the Kankakee River where walking trails could be created.

South county park

Planning for the newly purchased south county property has officially begun now that the land purchase has been finalized.

Kenworthy said a half a dozen members of the park’s steering committee gathered near Kouts to brainstorm on possible features for the property located on 63.5 acres between County Roads 650S and 700S on the west side of Ind. 49.

Parks planners showed the board three “paper doll” maps all containing multiple soccer fields, baseball and softball fields, as well as a community building, well houses, picnic and parking areas.

Kenworthy said the discussion was “very positive” and more meetings will take place over the next few weeks.

“It’s moving forward with some very passionate people attached to it,” he said.

He said more amenities are being considered such as a three-quarter mile walking loop, fountains and other landscaping. “That’s where everyone will be involved,” he said.

Pond Restoration

In other business, the board approved 5-0 a contract with Earth Source and Heartland Restoration Services for up to $58,700 for the 3-acre pond and 28-acre prairie restoration on the south end Sunset Hill Farm.

Most of the funds will come from a $31,500 matching grant from the Lake Michigan Coastal Program for wetland delineation and restoration of native vegetation. The rest will be paid out of leftover miscellaneous funds set aside for Sunset Hill Farm projects, Lenckos said.

Earth Source will first remove invasive plant species and replace them with native plants, improve the water quality, enhancing the environment for wildlife, and provide training to park staff on how to continue care and maintenance of the pond and prairie.

New Website

Lenckos said Friday at noon will be the launch of a new County Parks website and for the first time the public will be able to sign up and pay for programs electronically.

“We are moving happily into the 21st century,” Lenckos said.

He thanked his staff for their help in putting the site together. He said it was no extra cost to the department and was accomplished by the CivicPlus tech group which the County Commissioners had already contracted with.

Foundation/NIHPA

In other reports, Porter County Parks Foundation president David Yeager said progress is continuing on the proposed bird migratory sanctuary within the town limits of Chesterton on Meridian Rd., across from Westchester Intermediate School.

The Foundation is cooperating with various groups such as U.S. Fish and Wildlife, and the Northern Indiana Migratory Bird Association. Delineation and analysis of the wetlands is underway, Yeager said.

Further information about the sanctuary can be found at PCParksFoundation.com

The Foundation report also mentions a desire to work with the park department on the south county park development, as it can raise funds with its 501(C)(3) status.

The Foundation would also like to see a linear park for equestrian trails and dog park along the Kankakee River.

Meanwhile, Northern Indiana Historical Power Association president Nick Misch said that he plans to meet with planner Ray Joseph about aspects of the new Exhibit B agreement, including a museum at Sunset Hill Farm.

Tomerlin honored

Also on Thursday, the board passed a resolution paying tribute to the efforts of former park board member Rebecca Tomerlin, who served from January 2010 to December 2013.

Hudson read the resolution expressing gratitude for Tomerlin’s “dedication, commitment and diligence” to improving the quality of life for Porter County residents.

Tomerlin was appointed by the County Council and was an active member on the land acquisition and development committees.

Accepting the honor, Tomerlin said she is “really glad there is a good group of people to move the county parks system forward.”

 

 

Posted 2/7/2014