A group of citizens
approached the Porter County Park Board at its meeting Thursday about
partnering to preserve land where a 40-lot subdivision has been proposed.
Buinicki, Valparaiso resident speaking on behalf of the group, came before
the Board to gauge the Board’s interest in partnering to manage and preserve
land near their homes. “We would like to ask for your partnership and your
help and creativity in finding a solution to preserve 13 acres of greenspace,
protect the water quality of Loomis and Spectacle Lakes, and safeguard
natural habitats for birds and wildlife,” Buinicki said.
The property, owned
by the Kilmer family, is 17.4 acres zoned medium density single-family
residential. The owners have said publicly that they are amenable to selling
13 acres of the land instead of developing it. The parcel is near Rogers
Lakewood Park in Liberty Township, south of Spectacle Drive, north of
Andover Drive, and east of Campbell Road. A request to annex the parcel into
the City of Valparaiso was rejected in a 4-3 vote by the Valparaiso Town
Council last month after the project was met with much disapproval from the
The group is
comprised of local residentsÑthey are not a formal nonprofit and don’t
intend to form one, but among them are people involved with the local Izaak
Walton League, Woodlands and Savannah Land Conservancy, 219 Green Connect,
Shirley Heinze Land Trust, and Valpo Chain of Lakes. According to Buinicki,
members of the group have made soft commitments to donate at least $94,500
toward the purchase and have hired an appraiser to determine the value of
“No one of us has
the skillset or the knowledge base to manage that land or to develop it for
recreational purposes,” Buinicki said. “We want to align with your mission
and support you.”
three questions of the Board: Would the Parks Department manage the land as
a donation, would Parks put in an offer to the property owners while the
group fundraises, and “are there other solutions we can approach together
that align with your mission to preserve and protect the resources?”
Annetta Jones asked how much the property may cost. Buinicki said she
doesn’t have an appraisal yet, but the assessed value of the entire 17.4
acres is $455,000.
Board member David
Canright noted that buying is tricky for the Park Board, since it relies on
the County Council for funding, and often does grant-driven projects that
use little to no taxpayer money.
Craig Kenworthy suggested Buinicki should contact the Parks Foundation next,
since the Foundation is a non-profit with more freedom of buying power.
The Board opted, at
Kenworthy’s suggestion, to have the land acquisition and development
committee discuss the matter further at a future meeting. The committee will
tour the land to see what potential it may have for recreational
development, preservation or grant funding.
Don Frank, of
Jackson Township, alerted the Board to potential drainage issues on some of
the properties it leases to farmers.
Frank said that the
Park property that is being farmed at 1500N and County Line Road abuts a
ditch that drains into the Little Calumet River. He’s concerned about
whatever chemicals are used in that area, and how closely to the ditch they
are used, because vegetation all the way down to the water line of the ditch
is being affected.
would be, that since you’re going to negotiate contracts with the farmers
that you specify on any land you own that they stay a minimum of 50 feet
away from any ditch. If you can go 100 feet, that would be even better to
prevent any leeching of those chemicals,” Frank said.
“I would suggest
you take a look at all the property you own that may attach to a drain.”
That includes the
property Frank brought up and Brookdale Park, much of which is still leased
Kenworthy agreed Frank had “a very valid concern.” Canright suggested the
Board come up with a policy creating a buffer zone around the ditches.
David Hollenbeck, who will be advertising the land for farm leases soon,
said he advertises the land by “tillable acres.” Hollenbeck said he will
specify in the legal notices that 50-foot buffer zones around the ditches
are not part of the tillable land.