Chesterton Tribune                                                                                   Adv.

County parks committee eager to develop active park for youth

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

The Porter County Land Acquisition and Development Committee will speak to the Porter County Parks Board on Thursday to see if they can “get the ball rolling” on developing the Porter County Parks Department’s first active park that will possibly feature baseball and soccer fields.

Land Acquisition and Development Committee Chairman Richard Maxey said at a meeting on Monday the committee hopes to form a joint partnership with local organizations in maintaining and managing the 65.3-acre parcel located between Meridian Road and CR 50W just North of CR 900N near the Liberty Elementary & Intermediate Schools. The county has purchased the property in sections starting in 2007 from Liberty Township resident Barney Michaels.

Maxey said the county is looking to purchase the remaining 17 acres in either March or April that will likely be used for the development of youth sports playing fields. He said the committee and the parks board need to use their time efficiently in organizing plans if they are to reach this goal and that waiting too long could be risky.

“Procrastination is destructive to this park system,” said Maxey. “We cannot wait too long. We need to get our ducks in a line.”

Maxey said the committee will need to speak with the parks board before the board decides to lease the land. He said if the land is used for crop farming, the committee would have to hold their efforts for three years in order to flatten and make the land suitable for development.

One organization showing eagerness for involvement is the local non-profit organization Liberty Rec League, Inc. who also maintains Fireman’s Field located near the acquired property. Liberty Rec coach and local developer Paul Shinn said the organization is willing to assist the parks department staff in maintaining and funding the property if the parks department will allow them to use the fields for their baseball and softball games.

Maxey, along with County Parks Supervisor Mike Howton, agreed the parks staff would need more “manpower” in keeping the fields on the property neat.

Shinn said other youth organizations such as Boys and Girls Club of America and the Duneland Soccer Club, which is comprised of nearly 1,200 participants, may be willing to support the effort of bringing the plan into being.

“I think everybody wants to help and we’ll be glad to have a seat at this table. This (park) is important to the youth of Porter County,” said Shinn.

Shinn said the park could become a “revenue generating experience” for the county if they are able to construct working restroom facilities and concession stands. He said if Liberty Rec and other youth organizations are able to hold weekend tournaments, the county will be able to bring in additional revenue to hotels and restaurants.

The committee is hoping to hold down costs in the planning. Maxey said coming up with a master plan takes time and money and the county could do a lot of the work without having to shell out money to hire a separate engineering firm. He said there have been too many times in the past when the parks department had to pay thousands of dollars to draw up plans only to “let it sit in the cabinet.”

Those at the meeting responded to Maxey’s suggestion. Parks supporter and retired architect Herbert Read said he was unsure of the idea of “just giving someone a bulldozer and a can of gas” and that proper surveying needs to be done.

“You have to have something on paper first,” said Read.

After Maxey said the parks department has set aside money for the project, Read said it should be up to the parks board on what is to be done but they may need to wait until they hire the new parks superintendent before they proceed. Maxey said the parks board has the power to make a decision even without the authorization of a superintendent.

Porter County Plan Commission Executive Director Bob Thompson said he agreed with Read that the plan needs a surveyor to give contours of the property. He said the plan will need to be reviewed on zoning and stormwater drainage by an informal committee from the plan commission.

Read said he is in favor of using some of the property for active purposes as it will take some of the pressure off the areas and parks used for natural conservation.

The plan would also need approval from the county commissioners and the county council. Before county officials can grant their approval, the committee will need to create a budget. Maxey said he has already spoken with two of the commissioners and said they agree having a park where youths can play is important.

Maxey said he will speak for the committee at the parks board meeting Thursday with representatives from Liberty Rec to take questions regarding their desire for partnering with the parks department. Two parks board members present Monday, Ruth Jarnecke and Jim Perkins, said they felt positive toward the project.

In addition to the baseball, softball and soccer fields, the committee also considered including basketball and tennis courts as well as walking and bicycle trails for adults. Thompson said he hopes that the parties involved can sit down and discuss their visions for the project.

Maxey said the goal right now is simply to open discussion on the project and to keep the planning on track.

 

Posted 2/2/2010

 

 

 

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