Chesterton Tribune

 

 

County Parks set deer hunts; Lenckos builds case for funds

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

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 specifics yet.

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.

2106 Budgets

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 review.

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.

According to 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.

Board President 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.

Brincka-Cross trail bid selected

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.

Acquisition

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.

Field Trip/Camp FUNset

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.

Lenckos mentioned 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.

Kenworthy suggested 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 to.”

Absent from the meeting Monday was Board member Annetta Jones.

 

 

Posted 6/23/2015

 
 
 
 

 

 

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