Chesterton Tribune

Farming, horses, sports fields, ice rink among ideas for Porter County parks plan

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By DOUG ELISH

The weather didn’t cooperate with the cookout portion of the evening, but Porter County Park Superintendent Walter Lenckos said the rest of Wednesday’s park department master planning open house went exactly as he hoped.

With a group of around 30 people present, Lenckos detailed the master planning process that has been about five months in the making for the 12-member committee. He explained the detailed infrastructure, population and property analysis methods that will help determine the direction of the county’s park department in the next five years.

After that, he opened the public input session of the open house and received the type of responses he was hoping to garner. Residents filled categoried pieces of paper that covered the walls of the park’s utility garage with desires ranging from making Sunset Hill a full working farm to developing Brookdale Park with sports fields to publishing a regular newsletter for county residents to receive about park programs.

Along with those ideas there was a lot of support for creating an equestrian area in the county and using the amphitheater at Sunset Hill more effectively.

“I think this was really cool,” resident Monica Korzenecki, who spoke about making Sunset a working farm to honor the county’s tradition and using the amphitheater, said. “It allowed for some new ideas to be brought up and I’m sure there are even more ideas out there.”

Lenckos even received some surprise requests such as the impassioned plea for an outdoor ice rink by Chesterton resident John Gregurich. As a former hockey coach, Gregurich said there’s a 50-mile gap in ice rinks for hockey or figure skating between South Bend and Chicago and Porter County could open “a gold mine.”

Lenckos said he hadn’t even considered an ice rink, which received a lot of support Wednesday night and is exactly why he was excited about holding the public input session.

“This has been great,” Lenckos said. “There is no such thing as wrong feedback. We will consider everything that was said. We will not be successful with this master plan if we try to do things that are contrary to the public opinion.”

There will be a second public input session at an undetermined date, but the next step in the master planning process will be with the park department’s contracted planning firm, Leisure Vision. The company will begin interviewing park employees and board members and then conduct a resident survey through mail, e-mail and telephone.

From there, the goals and desires of the park will be prioritized to create the five-year master plan. The plan must be submitted to the state by April 2012 in order for the county to be eligible for state grants.

The following are the 10 areas the plan committee have identified as most important: Expanding volunteer programs, communication and marketing, finding balance between passive and active usage and programs, park maintaince and operations, program and park development in south county, Brincka-Cross rehabilitation, Sunset Hill Farm development, land acquisition, park and program accessibility and program development for all ages.

 

 

Posted 10/20/2011