Chesterton Tribune



Biggs votes against accepting grant to provide parking at BrinckaCross Gardens county park

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Correction: Brincka-Cross Gardens Park on Furness Rd.

In a story appearing Wednesday in the Chesterton Tribune, it was incorrectly reported that the additional acreage eyed for Brincka-Cross Gardens County Park has a graveled area off Furnessville Road.

The graveled area, like the park itself, is located on Furness Road.

The Tribune regrets the error.

Posted 2/3/2017




Of the types of ordinances voted on by the Porter County Board of Commissioners, the least contentious usually are the ones to establish funds to hold grant monies.

But Tuesday was a rare instance when the board split 2-1 on an ordinance to establish a fund for the County Parks Department to deposit $58,125 in matching grants from an Indiana Lake Michigan Coastal Grant and the Department of Natural Resources’ Bicentennial Nature Trust.

The grant funds the purchase of 15 additional acres for Brincka-Cross Gardens to the west. Negotiations began when the parcel became available a little over a year ago.

Voting no was County Commissioner Jim Biggs, R-North, who spoke against acquiring additional park land that he says would go unused while the County is stuck with the cost to maintain it.

“I don’t see a lot of opportunity for us having the internal resources to develop it,” Biggs said. “I am very concerned about pursuing federal grant money for the purpose of ‘because we can’ and in this case 15 acres to do what?”

Parking Opportunity

Parks Superintendent Walter Lenckos said the intention is to use the land mainly for passive uses, preserving woodlands and wetlands there. The parcel includes a small graveled area used by the previous property owner off Furness Rd. that can be used as a parking area.

“We can have a real parking lot, which we’ve never really had,” Lenckos said.

Lenckos said that the acquisition fits within the Northwest Indiana Regional Plan Commission’s 2040 plan to acquire land around the National Lakeshore and Indiana Dunes State Park as well as the Porter County Parks Department’s master plan to acquire wetlands and woodlands.

The grant money would essentially allow the state to have a conservation easement that would restrict use of the property, Lenckos said.

The DNR will allow the parking lot because that would increase access for the public, he said.

Saying he understands Biggs’ concerns, Lenckos added that his department is one of the lowest funded per capita in Indiana and that he and the park board would “relish” having more funding.

Biggs said he believes the parks department is “fairly” funded compared to the other departments in Porter County Government. He said he understands the effort of purchasing the property for environmental benefits but questions whether it’s something the County must keep paying for.

“I get it. My concern is adding this to the inventory of acreage. We have to insure it and we have to maintain it,” Biggs said. He also gave Brookdale Park in Liberty Twp. as an example of park land that has been sitting for years undeveloped.

Lenckos later told the Chesterton Tribune that the Parks Department has not increased its maintenance budget and he is not aware of any added cost for liability due to acquired land.

During the public hearing for the ordinance, Porter County Tourism Board President Mitch Peters agreed on the need for a parking lot.

“Parking is a huge issue up there. I understand the concern about acquiring additional property but we do need parking at that facility, and it is utilized. It’s a nice facility in the county. It’s on the north side. I know we are working on Center Twp. and the south but we do need something up there as well so I would certainly welcome the ordinance,” Peters said.

In comments from the other Commissioners, Commissioner Laura Shurr Blaney, D-South, said she too understands Biggs’ concerns but feels that Brincka-Cross Gardens Park is well-used already and the acquisition is part of the original plan. She said she also likes having more parking.

Blaney asked if there are any park properties with land that the County could “get rid of.” Park Board attorney David Hollenbeck said that property in the park system that is not developed is used for open space for the purpose of enhancing the quality of life for residents.

Commissioner President Jeff Good, R-Center, did not comment on the Brincka-Cross property but said that as the County Parks master plan update moves forward it should take into account the recent discussions between the Center Twp. Advisory Board and the City of Valparaiso about creating a new joint park district.

Lenckos said there will be a master plan update discussion at Thursday’s County Park Board meeting.

On the vote for the ordinance, Blaney and Good voted in favor on a first reading with Biggs voting against.

Second reading will be held at the Commissioners’ next meeting on Feb. 21.



Posted 2/1/2017




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