Attorney for the Northwest Indiana Croquet Association, was back before the
County Park Board at its meeting yesterday to propose a partnership for
creating championship croquet courts at Sunset Hill Farm County Park.
the NWI Croquet Association is now an IRS-approved 501c3 organization, and
they’ve “done their homework” and “come a long way” since they were before
the Board last year asking for a long-term lease.
The group attended
a couple meetings last year to express interest in leasing land at Sunset
Hill and building four championship croquet courts. Following the Board’s
concerns about public access and drainage from the carefully-manicured and
treated croquet lawns affecting restored prairie and pond areas at Sunset
Hill, the group turned their attention to Dogwood Park and approached the
Chesterton Park Board, where they were rebuffed.
Sawyier said new
plans for the croquet courts, put together by Planned Environment
Associates, of Chesterton, include a 50-foot wide practice/instructional
area in the strip of land between the proposed courts and the driveway to
the Park’s amphitheater and a swale to catch drainage from the courts.
“We’ve managed to
create a nice public practice and instructional area just to the east of the
courts. It’s just a matter of relocating some of the trees there,” Sawyier
Craig Kenworthy said he was glad croquet, a relaxed activity, could offer an
opportunity for older citizens, but he asked Sawyier how often the group
anticipates offering instruction or providing community service, such as
allowing the Boys and Girls Club or folks from an assisted living facility
onto the courts.
Sawyier was clear:
no one who isn’t already skilled in croquet would be allowed on the
championship courts. “The daily outreach will consist of playing and
instruction in that instructional area, and when the players have the
necessary skills, we would be fine with them going on the normal courts. We
don’t want people chopping up the courts,” Sawyier said.
“We haven’t fully
thought through the matter of instruction on the championship courts,” he
added. Sawyier said he imagined a few weeks of instruction in the practice
area would be required before someone was allowed on the courts because
“international croquet rules are extremely complicated.”
“We want as many
members as possible. We can’t have players who don’t know how to play
damaging the courts, but again, as a publicly supported charity, a 501c3
charity, we’re very different from a country club. Our aim is public
recreation and instruction,” Sawyier continued.
responded, “Can you see where the country club thing can become a sticking
point from some people?”
Sawyier said he
could, but only because there is a stigma of exclusivity attached to
croquet. “But we’d like to turn that idea on its head and have the kids
learn croquet in the practice area, and then join the membership,” Sawyier
Board member Drew
Armstrong asked if Sawyier could expound on his ideas for public
instruction. Sawyier said, “It’s not a detailed plan, but we do anticipate
having expert instruction for the public” on a daily or weekly basis, though
he didn’t respond to Armstrong’s follow-up question of whether or not
members of the group would be willing to serve as instructors. Sawyier said
he also couldn’t commit the group to providing a certain amount of
instruction time or number of free lessons without more thought.
On the subject of
assisted living facilities, Sawyier said they would be ideal corporate
members, and he has already contacted someone at StoryPoint in Chesterton.
Sawyier said the
group aims to have at least 80 members by this time next year and have
“corporate members” to offset the cost of individual membership. Sawyier
said nonmembers of the group would be allowed to play on the championship
courts, “if they have the necessary qualifications”, but he anticipates
implementing a user fee. “We need revenue to maintain the operation, and
that would involve user fees if someone wasn’t a member or a guest of a
member.” Tournaments would be open for the public to watch with free
Sawyier wasn’t able
to estimate the amount of the aforementioned user fees when Board members
Annetta Jones asked if players on the championship courts are required to
wear certain shoes or clothes, which could be a barrier to people who don’t
have the right attire.
special shoes aren’t required, to his knowledge, but he thought the National
Croquet Association has some sort of standard for dress. “We will have some
sort of dress code. We don’t want people out there in garish attire,” he
The Board opted to
delegate discussion on a potential lease to a committee.
Superintendent Walter Lenckos made a reminder that the Prairie Magic Music
Festival is coming up, Aug. 17. Gates open at 12 p.m. and the music goes
from 1 to 7 p.m. Ticket sales are exceeding expectations, according to
Lenckos also noted
volunteers are welcome to help with Parks Department projects on Day of
Caring Aug. 9. In the morning, volunteers will work at Sunset Hill from 9:30
to 12 p.m., then projects will continue at Brookdale Park from 1:30 to 4
were a tremendous success, Lenckos said, with over 100 kids each week at day
camp and between eight and 24 kids for overnights. “The staff did a
phenomenal job. I cannot say enough about Becky and Nicole,” Lenckos said.
A couple of new
partnerships will benefit Parks visitors soon, as ArcelorMittal and the
Porter County Library have made commitments.
agreed to fund citizen science initiatives through the Parks Department
where the public will have the opportunity to join experts to learn things
like stream monitoring, bird counts, and owl banding. The Dunes Learning
Center, National Park Service, and Shirley Heinze Land Trust are on board,
would attract a new group of people to our facilities that we may not be
reaching, and it provides us with data that we may be able to use for
management,” Lenckos said.
As for the Library,
Lenckos said the Friends of the Porter County Library have agreed to do two
storybook trails at Sunset Hill. Parks employees will install storyboard
signs on the trails, and Library volunteers will rotate the stories
regularly. This will allow not only for park visitors to enjoy the trails
more, but also for the Library to host programs based on the signs at the