By PAULENE POPARAD
A 2,000 foot-tall water jet
rising out of Lake Michigan that would create rainbows on a sunny day?
“Northwest Indiana needs an
‘awe’ effect on the lake,” said Hans Enderlin of Hebron. “We would be the
envy of Chicago.”
Challenged to think out of
the box about what Northwest Indiana could be in 2040, participants at a
Saturday forum did just that. Tourism-related development was mentioned as a
way to capture imaginations and visitors’ dollars.
Marlena Bell of Gary said we
could turn this area from an industrial region to a vacation region by
educating others about what’s available here.
Paul Boyter of Chesterton
agreed there’s an opportunity to draw Chicago residents. “Why don’t we have
a New Buffalo in Gary or Chesterton that’s fun and draws people in?” He
predicted golf courses and hotels would be popular attractions.
According to John Davies,
formerly with the Northwest Indiana Forum, “I would encourage people to
dream. When they dream they change the world.” Innovation, creativity,
curiousity and entrepreneurship need to be encouraged, he added, and
dreamers need determination to implement their vision.
Developing a long-range
vision is what the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission’s forum
was all about. To get the ball rolling nearly 500 people, 51 percent female
and 49 percent male, spent a day agreeing, amiably disagreeing and agreeing
to disagree about what Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties need to do to
remain a place where people want to live and work in the decades ahead.
Sixty-four percent of those
attending live in Lake County, 21 percent in Porter County and 15 percent in
LaPorte County with the remaining participants from elsewhere in Indiana or
Illinois. Even middle and high-school students attended.
The regional population hit
a record 762,469 persons in 2007 and is expected to grow to a combined
population of 824,542 by 2040.
Today, Barb Morgin of
Roselawn in Newton County believes, “Northwest Indiana has a very small view
of itself.” And that, she and others said, needs to change. “Education
should be this region’s first and foremost priority,” said Morgin.
Smart-growth mass transit and shared resources are her vision for the
Her husband, John Morgin,
said Northwest Indiana will be considered six counties one day. A big
challenge to new ideas is non-diversity that’s created elitism, even between
communities. Building expressways, which he said should be toll roads,
encourages people to move out of urban areas. “We pull out the heart of
every community when we move.”
Maintaining vibrant central
business districts in older cities and towns was supported as a forum goal.
“Chesterton should be a town people drive 300 miles to see their downtown,”
said John Morgin. Boyter said, “A lot of people in Northwest Indiana have a
no-growth attitude,” citing how Chesterton officials turned down a mall that
would have included prototype-design Target and Kohl’s.
Steve Nigro, planning
administrator for the city of Crown Point, said future growth will occur in
proximity to existing cities and towns so surburban communities will need to
offer a unique product with amenities available to those who desire them.
But that likely will require the towns to implement impact fees to support
themselves, he noted.
David Isley of Evansville,
who works in this area, said neighborhoods are the building blocks of any
community. He recommended pedestrian-friendly growth. Northwest Indiana has
over 74 miles of bike/pedestrian trails built and over 57 more miles planned
and funded. “We’ve gone through an industrial revolution and a technological
revolution. We’re in an energy revolution now but I don’t know if we’re
going to win that,” said Isley. “Whoever does will dictate their future.”
Jenn Denny of Hobart said her vision for 2040 is people living a healthier
lifestyle, enjoying a vital lakefront, cleaner water and using wind farms
According to NIRPC director
of planning Steve Strains, nine cities and towns in Northwest Indiana,
including Chesterton and Porter, rely on combined sanitary and storm sewer
systems. In 2007 these nine systems overflowed 1,344 times. Bell said the
region needs to construct state-of-the-art wastewater treatement facilities
and to encourage younger political and educational leaders.
efficiently and safely moving people and goods through and within the region
--- proved to be an often-discussed topic. What to do about increasing rail
freight, the potential for air freight with airport partners and the
over-abundance of semi-trucks all must be addressed in future transportation
John Vail of Michigan City
supported continuing efforts to move South Shore commuter trains off
Michigan City streets, and to eliminate an on-time bottleneck at the
Kensington interlocking in Illinois. “Let’s fix what we’ve got first.”
However, Vail said we can’t lose sight of planning for transit-oriented
developments of the future combining business/residential uses and
Nigro said with the
announced parking-meter fee increases in Chicago, South Shore ridership will
see a boost.
Enderlin said the Borman
Expressway can’t expand any more and that the controversial Indiana/Illinois
south-county expressway has to come. He recommended all transportation
agencies be consolidated under one properly funded entity.
According to NIRPC
statistics, nine out of 10 region commuters use a car to get to work, and
eight in ten are alone in that car.