Chesterton Tribune

 

 

Brincka-Cross County Park will double in size with new acquisition

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By LILY REX

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 Gardens.

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 sources.”

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 Fire Cherry.

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.

Reorganization

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 Armstrong Vice-president.

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 Door Law.

Staff Report

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 additionals.

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 2020.

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.

Comments

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 Parks.

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.

 
 
 
 

 

 

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