Chesterton Tribune

Town / federal partnership eyed to upgrade Porter Beach

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By PAULENE POPARAD

The Porter Redevelopment Commission is on a mission to find $150,000 and Tuesday members may have found how to get it.

President Michele Bollinger said the National Park Service has committed demolition expenses plus $150,000 toward a new picnic pavilion and improved lakefront access at Porter Beach.

The town can partner with a like amount to develop the NPS-designed facilities as planned. The improvements would be on both federal and Town of Porter lands.

The Redevelopment Commission gets its funding from certain property taxes collected in designated districts and since Porter Beach is not one of them, commission money typically can’t be spent there.

The commission concurred with Bollinger’s suggestion to submit a formal grant application through the Lake Michigan Coastal Program for approximately $70,000; a pre-application showed most of the beach project is eligible for funding but not a concession stand NPS said would have to be operated by the town if it wishes to do so.

The town would have to provide $70,000 to match the grant. Members Trevin Fowler and Al Raffin supported having Porter consultant SEH ask the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority to reprogram at least $70,000 of the $19 million it previously awarded the commission for its Gateway to the Indiana Dunes project.

Fowler said the beach pavilion shares the Gateway’s goals of improved recreational facilities that can be used by Porter residents as well as tourists. Bollinger said preliminary cost estimates will be sought to get a better idea how much the town would be required to pay toward the pavilion project, which is still in the design phase.

Town director of engineering Matt Keiser showed a video presentation recently given by NPS representatives to Porter officials.

He said two vacant NPS leaseback houses north of the town’s Porter Beach parking lot will be torn down by the park service next week and their septic fields removed. In their place tentatively planned are both a family picnic area and a reservable group picnic area; a handicapped-accessible ramp from the pavilion to the beach; retaining walls, angled parking and circular end turn-arounds at the town lot; and wider sidewalks along Wabash Avenue.

Porter Public Works superintendent Brenda Brueckheimer said the retaining walls will cut down on parking-lot maintenance from blowing sand, and the ramp is vital so everyone can get to the water’s edge to enjoy the sunsets.

In other business, Keiser reported the Brickyard Trail pedestrian bridge spanning four-lane U.S. 20 will be delivered the first week in December and set soon after taking about seven days to complete. The highway will remain open but close periodically in 20-minute increments.

The bridge over U.S. 12 is slated for erection in the spring. Deadline for trail completion is May 14, 2012. The town received a $2 million transportation-enhancement grant for the trail; the commission funded an additional $900,000 as well as paid the preliminary engineering over nearly a decade and right-of-way acquisition.

A glitch in the project is not being able to find confirmation that Howe Road is a platted town street. Legal research is ongoing as additional parcels may need to be acquired near and for Howe Road to link the U.S. 20 bridge with the eastern portion of the Brickyard Trail into downtown Porter.

Separate title research and land acquisition is ongoing for the Orchard Pedestrian Way trail slated for 2012 groundbreaking along Waverly Road.

A portion will cut through Hawthorne Park, which the Porter Park Board owns, but research shows Ackerman Drive through the park is not a recorded town street which brings up the question of who should own, maintain, repair and plow it.

“Everything’s on the table at this point,” said Keiser. Federal guidelines require the town to plat the easement where the trail will go. A meeting will be scheduled with the Park Board and its attorney.

On another matter, Keiser said an environmental assessment report for Munson Ditch is available at the town hall for inspection; no recognized concerns were found.

 

Posted 11/23/2011