Chesterton Tribune

County Park Board favorable to Lake County maintaining site on Kankakee River

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

The Porter County Park Board on Thursday approved a motion recommending the Lake County Parks Department be allowed to maintain a 20-acre parcel along the Kankakee River in the southwest corner of Porter County.

Lake County Parks Superinten-dent Robert Nickovich said his department is interested in acquiring the parcel which is owned by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. The purpose of annexing the land would be to include it in Lake County’s 6.6 mile-long Grand Kankakee Marsh County Park and to see the land is cared for.

The county’s official position on the land transfer will ultimately be decided by the county commissioners but Nickovich notified the park board as a courtesy.

Porter County Parks Superinten-dent Walter Lenckos said he has no intentions of operating it and supported the measure believing it would help maintain a good relationship with Lake County Park officials.

Nickovich said the state land, also referred to as “Government Woods,” is inaccessible except from the Kankakee River itself or through the park. It is not connected to a county road on the Porter County side where it is surrounded by private land.

The Grand Kankakee Marsh County Park, which Nickovich said was the first county-run Fish and Wildlife property in the state, allows hunters onto the property during the proper seasons as long as they sign a waiver.

Lake County, if the title of the land is transferred to it, will see that markers are erected to keep hunters from walking on to private land.

Nickovich believes his department is more capable of conserving the site than the DNR.

“We think we can provide more management opportunities on the site than the state is providing currently” said Nickovich.

The potential deal is also being done to keep the land public for conservation rather than selling it to private owners.

Nickovich said he would be open to the possibility of handing the property back over to Porter County should they ever change their minds about using it. “It should be a simple transaction,” he said.

Parks board member David Canright favored the idea, saying Lake County Parks has been around longer and is better established than the Porter County Parks Department and having the opportunity to work with each other would benefit both parties in the future.

The board voted 5-1 to give the proposal a positive push to the county commissioners. The one dissenting vote came from the board’s newest member, Craig Kenworthy, who said it was “commendable” what Lake County was accomplishing in the Grand Kankakee Marsh Park but asking Porter County to cede land was a “hard sell” in his eyes.

“I have a problem giving Porter County land to Lake County,” Kenworthy said.

From the audience, parks supporters Herb and Charlotte Read praised the action and encouraged the board seek more opportunities to work with other counties bordering the Kankakee River, looking for potential areas were river frontages could be preserved.

Raise-The-Barn Contract Delayed

In absence of board attorney David Hollenbeck, the board postponed reviewing a contract with Luke Builds which drafted plans last month for the construction of the Raise-the-Barn activity center at Sunset Hill Farm County Park.

The matter will be heard at the board’s next meeting in March.

In other matters regarding Sunset Hill Farm, Kenworthy told the board he knew of someone who would be willing to help clear some of the areas where there are invasive plant species. Kenworthy said the service could be done free of charge and would help restore some of the native species.

Acting on a concern from a resident, Kenworthy asked if the animals at Sunset Hill Farm were being kept in an area that met regulations from governing agencies. The park keeps goats and chickens for its educational programs and is intending to include more animal species.

Lenckos said the park has met and exceeds regulations set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Indiana State Board of Animal Health.

Canright supported the idea of adding more farm animals to benefit parks programs but asked Lenckos to consult the board first to make sure the department has the resources needed to house them.

Brincka-Cross Parking Lot

Lenckos said he consulted both the county highway department and plan commission on expanding the parking area at the Brincka-Cross County Park. Some adjustments will be made, he said.

The lot will be structured in an area away from neighboring property owners.

The new area contains a few unique species of trees, and Lenckos said the trees will be preserved and anticipates having the plan ready for the board to vote on at its next meeting. He said the lot should be finished prior to this spring.

In another matter, Lenckos announced there will be another public input session for the parks’ new master plan tentatively scheduled for the end of the month.

 

 

Posted 2/3/2012