Three policies were
approved Monday by the Porter County Parks and Recreation Board with votes
of 5-0, including the much discussed deer management program.
The approval gives
authority for the parks department to start programming in the fall with
many of the conditions talked about at the board’s May meeting. Background
checks will be required, as recommended by Board member Craig Kenworthy,
along with compliance with the park’s safety regulations, Parks
Superintendent Walter Lenckos said.
Only two park areas
will be included in the deer management as the program starts out -- the
former Indiana Department of Corrections property at County Line Rd. in Pine
Twp. and Brookdale County Park -- both of which are currently not open to
the public. Brincka-Cross had been discussed as it had the highest volume of
deer but Lenckos said there would be too much construction going on with the
new trails this fall. “Let’s keep it small, simple and easy.”
Only bow hunting
will be allowed, no guns. Assisting is Bryan McFadden, president of the
local Quality Deer Management Association, who asked the board in October to
consider offering the programs.
Also approved was a
naming policy, creating a process for how park assets can be named in memory
of someone or after a donor. Lenckos alluded to someone who is interested in
making a donation now that the naming policy is in place, but is not giving
The last policy
approved deals with food vendors. The parks department had previously sought
food vendors for events at Sunset Hill Farm but received a dismal response.
Lenckos did say however that after speaking with local food shop owners,
Valpo Viennas is interested in being a vendor for the parks.
“They said to start
out slow and easy -- start with hot dogs,” Lenckos said.
In other business
the board, with little enthusiasm, approved the projected 2016 budget for
the parks department at $421,647 in the General Fund budget, supported by
property taxes, and $233,734 in non-general budgets, which were roughly the
same as last year, according to Lenckos. The County Council will hold budget
hearings in the fall but budgets are to be submitted by July to undergo
The Council has
asked departments to seek no new additional funds in their budgets as tax
draws continue to shrink.
Lenckos said that
his staff has been able to achieve goals despite financial constraints and
praised all his employees. “It has been a fantastically difficult year”
budget-wise and yet all projects are moving forward, he said.
“We should get
through 2015 and 2016 as well but what this department woefully needs is
support of capital investment,” he said.
Lenckos, Porter County’s Park Department is the second lowest funded per
capita in the state and it’s a point he would like to address with the
Council and Commissioners.
Lenckos said that
through research he’s done with the U.S. Forest Service, he estimates that
the dollar amount for the air pollution removed by the tree canopy foliage
in Sunset Hill Farm and Brincka-Cross Gardens alone is worth roughly 80
percent of the parks’ total general fund budget.
Rich Hudson said that no one from the board “was excited” to vote positively
for the budget as they agree with Lenckos.
“I don’t like being
second lowest,” Hudson said.
Construction on 1.6
miles of new walking trails at Brincka-Cross Gardens is ready to begin as
the board unanimously agreed to accept the bid from Hasse Construction which
came under the $150,000 in available grant money for the project.
Four companies had
submitted bids in April but all bids were over the funds earmarked for the
project so the lower bidders were talked to about ways to lower their price,
such as narrowing the trail width. Garriup Construction of Gary reduced its
bid but its offer was about $4,000 higher than Hasse’s.
Board member David
Canright remarked that visitors to Brincka-Cross have noticed markings for
the trail and are beginning to walk them already.
Speaking of trails,
Canright added that a resident mentioned to him he was cross-country skiing
at Sunset Hill Farm and nearly collided with a bench. Canright suggested
parks staff add signage visitors can see in the winter.
Lenckos also told
his board that the 137-acre “Cain property” is in the final stages of
acquisition. The board in April agreed to purchase the property belonging to
Pine Twp. resident Thomas Cain near Old Chicago Rd. and CR 500E for
$890,000, which was funded through three separate grant sources.
The park is planned
for passive recreational activities such as hiking and birding.
Lenckos said with
the additional acreage the Parks Department has virtually doubled its land
since the time of acquiring Brincka-Cross Gardens.
In other news about
grants, Lenckos said Enbridge Inc., whose pipeline moves through the County,
is considering endowing the parks department with a $3,000 grant towards the
natural children’s playground at Sunset Hill Farm, just as it had helped out
earlier with the pond and prairie restoration.
On a similar note,
Smith Ready Mix has agreed to donate concrete to the playground’s Native
American theme play area, Lenckos said.
The parks will be
participating in the United Way Day of Giving on Aug. 21. That is also when
a volunteer work day is scheduled at Sunset Hill to prepare for the new
children’s playground. Volunteers will work from 9 a.m. until about 1 p.m.
followed by lunch.
Also, Lenckos was
excited to announce that the parks department hosted its first “field trip”
last week to Washington Park Zoo in Michigan City.
Camp FUNset is
running well this year, though attendance is down slightly with capacity at
70 percent. Lenckos said other parks and youth programs have noted a similar
dip in attendance rates.
that his office has been having problems with The Active Network which was
hired to conduct online registrations. The contract, with approval for the
Commissioners, was $20,000.
Lenckos see if there is a way to get the money back. Lenckos said it may be
possible since the company “did not deliver what they said they were going
Absent from the
meeting Monday was Board member Annetta Jones.