Chesterton Tribune

NPS eyes former home sites for Porter Beach picnic area

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By PAULENE POPARAD

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore superintendent Costa Dillon wants to develop a new picnic area at Porter Beach, and the Porter Town Council pledged its cooperation Tuesday.

Dillon said he envisions the space, reclaimed after two expired leaseback homes adjacent to a parking lot are removed, as a beachside picnic area for individual or group use; because utilities are in place for the homes, commercial vendor sales at the 1/4-acre picnic site are feasible.

After learning the plans won’t result in an overall loss of spaces in the town’s beach parking lot, council vice-president Michele Bollinger called the INDU project a great opportunity for Porter Beach.

Dillon said he’s seeking design services to have the picnic-area roof reflect the undulating flow of the dunes. He sees the finished structure as “Porter’s picture spot --- so attractive you’d want to put it on the town brochures and website.”

He noted, “Working with the town offers some opportunities neither of us could do alone.” Bollinger said Porter has $15,000 in marina grant money it could use for the project.

Dillon said some engineering changes may need to take place at the town parking lot to ensure accessibility for the new picnic area, but the town has control over what happens there, he assured.

The superintendent said the two beach homes to be torn down, especially challenging because of asbestos, are among other vacant INDU structures being removed including a house in the Dunes Forest area. Porter Public Works superintendent Brenda Brueckheimer said at the latter site the National Park Service will replace a collapsed culvert and regrade the ditch once the home is removed.

Beach flyers available

Anticipating a crowd at local beaches for the coming July 4 weekend when a heat wave also is predicted, Porter Police chief James Spanier announced Porter Beach residents are being asked to pick up flyers at the town hall or police station that they or their guests can display in the driver’s-side dashboard of their vehicles.

The flyers will permit residents/guests to move past police checkpoints without unneeded instructions and help speed traffic entering Porter Beach to avoid back-ups that result from questions about parking availability.

Spanier said a number of agencies are cooperating to help avoid traffic congestion related to the July 1 community fireworks at Indiana Dunes State Park where thousands of onlookers ventured last year. His recommendation? Get there early or steer clear of the area if not attending the fireworks.

The chief noted that having a valid Porter Beach parking sticker doesn’t guarantee anyone one of the few parking spots there.

Shuttle buses to Porter Beach will load at Chesterton Middle School in advance of fireworks at the adjacent state park. Bollinger said the Chesterton/Duneland Chamber of Commerce is spearheading the shuttle service by renting Duneland School Corp. buses and drivers. There is no charge for shuttle use.

Online sewer-pay option

Voting 3-0 with members Trevin Fowler and Todd Martin absent, the council OK’d purchase of $1,500 in software to enable residents to pay their sewer bills using credit/debit cards or electronic checks online through the town website; a convenience fee will be charged.

A second $1,500 was approved for software to pay sewer bills at the town hall using a speedier process, upgraded posting and special cash drawer operated by the system. Not purchased at this time was an approximately $2,000 kiosk and connectivity allowing sewer users to pay by credit/debit card at the town hall.

In other business Tuesday:

•It was announced Gregory Sobkowski, former Portage city attorney, of Hodges & Davis in Merrillville will be the new Porter town attorney. A contract was not ready for consideration so town attorney Patrick Lyp, who resigned, will serve until the July 12 meeting. Bollinger said Sobkowski will be the primary attorney and another lawyer from the firm likely will advise Porter’s two zoning boards.

•A representative of Porter Beach resident Ray Cahnman was told to work with Lyp and building commissioner Art Elwood on additional landscaping for Cahnman’s property; Lyp said there is a pending lawsuit over trees and a fence there.

•Director of engineering Matt Keiser advised that the town’s Stormwater Management Board plans to send out mailers seeking input for an updated drainage master plan. Fifteen of the 19 problem areas listed in 2008 have been addressed, Keiser noted.

•Porter businesses may purchase for $50 each wooden Adirondack chairs to paint and decorate for display as part of the town’s branding effort.

•Porter Park Board president Rondi Wightman said plans are finalized and ready for the July 4 Patriotism in the Park family funfest at Hawthorne Park. Also, space still is available for the park’s middle-school children’s cooking class July 11-14.

•Those present Tuesday applauded the efforts of Boy Scout Troop 998 members who recently installed 33 bike racks throughout town. The project was organized and supervised by scout Tony Davern. Keiser and Brueckheimer said what the 20 volunteers did was very impressive.

 

Posted 6/29/2011