Chesterton Tribune

 

 

New Woodville Foundation wants to see positive growth in Liberty Twp

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

If you could journey back 100 years to Duneland, you would find prosperous farms, homes, lakes, wildlife and open spaces, much as is found now.

It wouldn’t be long before you would happen upon an electric interurban trolley line known as the Valparaiso & Northern RR, which ran along CR 900N in Liberty Twp. and the Old Indiana 49. The line connected north to Chesterton, south to Valparaiso, west to Gary and east to LaPorte, carrying goods, passengers and tourists from the Chicago area.

Along the B & O Railroad that crossed through Liberty Twp. (which later became the CSX), enterprise saw the formation of small towns and settlements such as Crocker, Babcock, and LaHayn, but the best-known was Woodville, which was located at the junction of these rail lines.

Consisting of no more than a dozen lots, Woodville was its own community in the infancy of the 20th century featuring a fire house, a general store, several small businesses, and a post office.

The village was incorporated for 40 years or so between 1880 and 1920 and was abandoned permanently in 1939 after the Great Depression and the national decline of rail service.

But the name Woodville has not faded from the memories of Liberty Twp. residents Ed Seykowski, Tim Cole, Ed Gutt and others, who have formed The Woodville Foundation. The Foundation became a registered 501(c)(4) non-profit corporation as of September 2012.

The Foundation’s purpose is to promote growth and development in Liberty Twp. and some of Jackson Twp., while maintaining the same character and legacy that have made the area such a desirable place to live and visit, even as changes to the landscape are on the way.

Seykowski, who is president of the Foundation, and Cole said what sets them apart from other groups like the Liberty Landowners Association is that the Woodville Foundation will not fight growth but rather look to partner with developers finding some common goals so both parties can benefit.

“We want to be good neighbors and we would like to see developments who in kind will be good neighbors to us,” said Cole.

“Instead of filing lawsuits, we will look for common objectives. That how our organization will be different,” Seykowski said.

The Foundation is however against Liberty Twp. falling to the “urban sprawl” seen in cities and towns in Lake County that has depleted the character of those locations, Seykowski added.

Officials of Porter County Government and the Chesterton Town Council have been eyeing ways to develop acres of unincorporated land between the Chesterton and Valparaiso town limits, such as the Ind. 49 utility corridor project, but the Foundation members claim many of those officials have not made “a place for them at the table” although some have welcomed their vision. By growing in membership, Cole said, the Foundation hopes to give a voice to residents in dealing with the County or municipal governments.

A 501(c)(4) designates non-profit organizations who may inform the public of civic matters for the common good of a community while, unlike 501(c)(3) groups, maintaining the right to participate in or influence political activities.

The Foundation has already been in contact with businesses in the area, such as Porter Regional Hospital, Luke Oil, Family Express, St. Andrews Development, and others, concerning potential partnerships. The hospital has considered working on a history project with the group.

Seykowski and Cole said they would like to see “higher-end developments” in the area that would enhance the culture and bring high-paying jobs. Cole said an educational institution such as university building would be a good example of this. He also would like to see neighborhoods not be fenced into “separate little islands” but have infrastructure to connect them.

They also like the idea of building apartment complexes in place of Liberty Twp.’s mobile home parks and new neighborhood developments similar to Fox Chase Farms and Timberland Farms.

Seykowski said he hopes for safer ways that pedestrians and bicycles could travel, such as a tunnel walkway running beneath U.S. 6 instead of having to cross highway traffic. One goal he talked about is having a pedestrian trail linking Chesterton High School with Valparaiso High School for safe transit. The idea of placing placards on trails to tell Liberty Twp. history also appeals to the group.

Another part of the mission is to preserve the community environment and rural aspects working with the Damon Run Conservancy District. Cole said he believes it’s becoming a national trend in communities to return to a “small town” atmosphere.

“We have a unique culture here. We want to preserve that and continue a legacy,” he said.

Long term goals for the Foundation are including areas of neighboring Jackson Twp. in its mission and possibly incorporating into a town of their own.

Liberty Twp. is already home to numerous attractions and amenities, Seykowski said, such as two county parks (Sunset Hill Farm and Brookdale), the historic 49’er Drive-In Theater, Mink Lake Golf Course, Liberty Recreation ball fields, the Meadowbrook Nature Preserve, the Courts recreational facility and the former Meadowbrook Girl Scout camp now used as a nature preserve owned by the Shirley Heinze Land Trust.

Gutt said the hundreds of citizens who turned out to Porter County’s open houses on the U.S. 6 corridor in 2011 have shown that they are interested in positive development.

An informational and fundraising meeting for community members interested in getting behind the cause of the Woodville Foundation will take place, likely in January. Locations and dates will soon be announced.

Community members who have already joined the effort include Jane Walsh-Brown, and Herb and Charlotte Read.

Annual membership dues are $10 for individuals and $20 for families. Hats, t-shirts, and mugs with the Woodville logo will be available for purchase.

To learn more about the Foundation, call (219)-462-3636 or email info@woodville-foundation.com

 

Posted 12/13/2013