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
“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
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.