The recent action
by the City of Valparaiso and the Center Twp. Advisory Board to create a
combined park board to help fund parks throughout the township prompted a
discussion by the Porter County Parks and Recreation Board about the
possibility of collaborating with townships for more funding opportunities.
After a lengthy
discussion, the board voted 5-0 on a motion to approach the County Board of
Commissioners asking them “to assist in finding the means and mechanisms to
create partnerships with township governments to advance the cause of the
County parks system.”
began with board member Drew Armstrong saying that in the recent countywide
needs survey, about 75 percent of respondents were in favor of increasing
tax funding for the parks system. He felt the board should talk to the
Commissioners and County Council about that.
“It seems like we
are constantly scrambling to fund projects and this could give us a shot in
the arm,” Armstrong said.
Board member Craig
Kenworthy said with the merged Valparaiso and Center Twp. park board he
worries there will be “a domino effect” if other municipalities do the same
thing for their parks, leading to lost revenue for the county parks.
“We would lose a
huge chance for benefit to our parks. That’s a concern to me. We should go
to the Commissioners and ask how to secure assets and help residents who do
not live in the unincorporated areas,” he said.
But board member
David Canright said he doesn’t think what Valparaiso did will have any
effect on the County Parks system because the operating budget is fueled by
the county government’s general fund tax rate. All county residents pay into
the county’s tax levy despite what the municipalities are doing, he said.
Because of the
frozen levy law, if more funding is given to parks, it would mean money
would have to be pulled from other budgets tied to the levy, Canright said.
Rich Hudson said the board had talked before about getting its own tax rate.
Canright said that in order to do that, there would have to be a change by
the state legislature, which is unlikely.
David Hollenbeck said what facilitated the new collaboration of Valparaiso
and Center Township was similar to when they created a fire protection rate
for township government, which has its own fixed rate and levy. Those living
in the unincorporated areas will pay into the same tax rate as those living
in the city do with a small increase to the new park improvement fund.
made the motion to see if the commissioners could talk to the municipalities
in limiting their annexation powers, but Hollenbeck advised he doesn’t
believe the Commissioners have that power. Hollenbeck then suggested what
became the motion voted on to explore township partnerships.
On a similar note,
Parks Superintendent Walter Lenckos said the Union Twp. Trustee reached out
to him about a potential partnership with that township.
In other matters,
Valparaiso resident Bryan McFadden who has organized the parks’ deer
management hunting programs for the past two years talked about ways he felt
the program could be expanded in 2017.
McFadden gave a
slide presentation of the three park sites being used in the program --
Brookdale Park, the Hawk Ridge Natural Area and the former prison property
on County Line Rd. The program last year saw 19 hunters participate.
Along with asking
to continue the hunting stands at Brookdale Park, McFadden discussed the
possibility of improving the pond that is experiencing erosion problems from
geese and common carp. He suggested implementing a geese management program.
To combat the
erosion, McFadden recommended using an upland filter strip on the east side
of the pond. He also would like to see pond habitat improvements.
The former prison
property in Pine Twp. could be helped by a 15-30 foot filter strip on the
west side of the ditch that runs through the property on the southeast
Hawk Ridge, or the
“Caine” property, has a tremendous number of deer, said McFadden, and could
be a place to hunt wild game birds.
that he had “mixed feelings” about the suggestion as he believes residents
would like to see Hawk Ridge be used as a passive area with trails instead
of thinking of it as a place to hunt.
Kenworthy said he
had concerns about some of the hunting methods McFadden mentioned.
Hudson asked that
McFadden return to the board in a few months to discuss plans again.
Later in the
meeting, Porter County Parks Foundation President David Neville told the
board that a separate 501c3 is being formed exclusively for the Westchester
Migratory Bird Sanctuary located across from Westchester Intermediate School
on 11th St. in Chesterton.
the action and said that the new organization will be able to raise funds
needed for the sanctuary and move the project forward.
Neville after the
meeting told the Chesterton Tribune that more information will be
coming after the Park Foundation’s next meeting.
In other comments
to the board, Northern Indiana Historical Power Association member Jack
Kashak announced that NIHPA will be holding regular meetings at Sunset Hill
Farm at 7:30 p.m. on the second and last Wednesdays of the month.
Also, members from
the Illiana Garden Railway Society said they have looked over the locations
at Sunset Hill that were talked about at last month’s board meeting where
they might be able to put in the model railway.
David Ransem said the area where the farm animals are now seems like an
ideal location. He asked for board members to meet at the park sometime to
discuss the location.
A cabin will be
built at Sunset Hill’s campground area to provide a shelter for youth
participating in the summer camp programs at the park, Lenckos announced.
The County Tourism
Bureau has granted $2,500 towards the cabin, Lenckos said, which will be
approximately 16’ x 20’.
Along with serving
as a refuge for campers, Lenckos said the cabin could be rented out for
events and create additional revenue opportunities.
Other items in
Lenckos’ staff report:
-- Summer Camp
registration kicked off last weekend and camps are more than 25 percent
full, a bit ahead of last year. Registration can also be done online.
-- Lenckos said
John Hodson, president of the Kankakee Valley Historical Society, has
completed further documentation to transfer some of the wooded areas around
the Historic Collier Lodge on the Kankakee River to the Parks Department in
-- The Park’s
Master Plan Committee will meet next on March 22 to wrap up its work. A copy
of the latest draft will be posted on the Park Department’s webpage for the
public to view and give comments if they wish. The final plan will be
presented to the Park Board at an upcoming meeting.