The Porter County Park Board is set to close on its acquisition of a Pine
Township property that will more than double the size of the Brincka-Cross
The 35-acre parcel owned by the Smith family is adjacent to the Gardens.
Board Attorney David Hollenbeck reported at last night’s Porter County Park
Board meeting the sale is scheduled to close at 1 p.m. on March 13.
Hollenbeck said it’s high time Brincka-Cross was expanded. “We needed some
breathing room. Parking is problematic. We’re going to soon become victims
of our own success, and there’s going to be no room for anyone to park over
there,” he said.
Hollenbeck said the acquisition is exciting, but he also wanted to take a
moment to do something he doesn’t do often enough--“And that is publicly
commend your Superintendent for his ability to find other people’s money for
our projects. We have money coming in on this project from two different
No taxpayer money is being used in the Smith acquisition. The purchase is
being funded by a $150,000 Lake Michigan Coastal Program grant and $179,000
Conservation Fund grant, Lenckos said. Lenckos also noted the County
Surveyor’s office was instrumental in meeting the requirements for each
grant. Lenckos thanked County Surveyor Kevin Breitzke for his Office’s help
and noted former Board member Rich Hudson also did pro bono surveying work.
“They did a tremendous amount of drawing and writing and rewriting
descriptions and maps for this project, so they deserve a significant thanks
as well,” Lenckos said.
The 35 acres will be passive land and will not be developed beyond basic
trail maintenance, according to Lenckos. Lenckos also said he was excited a
“really cool” state rare tree was just identified on the Smith property--a
Thanks for Their Service
The Board approved two resolutions thanking former Board members Annetta
Jones and Rich Hudson for their service to the Park Board. Jones and Hudson
have a combined 42 years of service to the Board (12 for Jones, and 30 for
Hudson) between them.
Board president Craig Kenworthy thanked Jones for her service. Jones said,
“It was a pleasure to serve. I enjoyed all the time I spent with the Parks,
and I wish you all the best.”
Hudson was not in attendance last night. “He dedicated a long, long time to
this Board. He cared very, very much about these parks,” Kenworthy said.
Jones and Hudson did not volunteer to leave the Board, rather, their terms
were effectively ended by the Porter County Council, which acted on a 2019
change in state law that allows counties to change the makeup of their local
park boards. The Council passed a resolution in October naming the County
Auditor an appointing authority for one seat on the Board and giving the
County Commissioners an extra appointment.
Hudson served at the appointment of the Judge of the Porter Circuit Court,
and Jones served ex officio as a representative of the County Extension
Office. Under the new law, the Circuit Court Judge no longer appoints to the
Park Board, and there is no longer an ex officio member.
The Board reorganized with its new makeup and two new members: Auditor
appointee Erin Labovitz and Democratic Board of Commissioners appointee Karl
English. The new Board reelected Kenworthy as President and voted Drew
Members also volunteered for committees, as follows: budget and personnel,
Labovitz and Bryan Waisanen; marketing, Labovitz and English; land
acquisition and development, Kenworthy, Armstrong, and English; and building
and maintenance, Armstrong and Waisanen. Because three of the Board’s five
members are on the land acquisition and development committee, meetings of
that committee will need to be advertised and public under the Indiana Open
Lenckos is seeking two additional appropriations--one for $7,500 to hire
part-time seasonal workers for park maintenance and stewardship projects,
and another for $16,000 to fund marketing efforts through the end of the
year after printing for the program guide depleted marketing funds. Lenckos
said he anticipates the Board will still end the year under budget with both
Kenworthy and Waisanen were concerned about putting $16,000 toward marketing
when the Board is unsure how much ongoing projects, including demolition of
several old buildings on Park property and improvements to the road to the
amphitheater at Sunset Hill Farm County Park, will cost.
The Board approved Lenckos to take both requests to the County Council after
it voted to reduce the ask for marketing funds to $8,000. With the $8,000,
Lenckos will be able to pay any invoices that come in while the Board has
more time to mull the cost of other projects.
Speaking of ongoing projects, Lenckos thanked the Liberty Township Fire
Department for helping get rid of an unsightly brush pile at Sunset Hill and
said they may be willing to help demo an old building at Brookdale Park as
well. A building at Sunset Hill is being evaluated for asbestos. The Highway
Department has agreed to help take down the old barn at Brincka-Cross, and
Highway Superintendent told Lenckos he’s working on a quote for an in-house
job on the road at Sunset Hill. Lenckos said he anticipates those costs
won’t exceed the $40,000 budgeted in the building and maintenance fund for
In other business, Lenckos said, “the phone has been ringing a lot” at the
Parks Department, and summer camp is almost one third full already. “Kudos
to Nicole and her team and Matt and his team, and everyone that’s made us
something that parents look to for their kids,” he said.
Lenckos noted the Department has also started a Leader In-Training program
in response to a demand for programing for kids who have aged out of summer
camp but aren’t yet old enough to be counselors. Four of 10 spots are taken
already. STEM programming at the new Horton Children’s Center is also taking
off. The National Park Service will soon hold its first STEM program in
partnership with County Parks, according to Lenckos.
President of the Duneland Photography Club Steve Bensing thanked the Board
for its support in letting Duneland Photography meet at Sunset Hill and
noted the Club’s executive board is brainstorming new ways to support the
Waisanen took a moment to praise Parks staff at the end of the meeting. “I’d
like to thank Walter and the staff, especially for all the behind the scenes
work for all the summer camps. I know they’re working extremely hard on
that. Every year our numbers keep going up,” he said.