The Porter County
Convention, Recreation and Visitors Commission board welcomed County
Commissioner appointees Jesse Harper and Patrick McEuen at its
reorganization meeting Thursday.
fill the seats previously held by Pavilion Partners LLC principal Chuck
Williams and former Portage Mayor and SEH Inc. government affairs director
Doug Olson, who were appointed by the Commissioners in 2013. The
Commissioners had expanded the PCCRVC board then from nine to eleven members
in order to develop a sports cabinet.
Director Lorelei Weimer said that neither Williams or Olson reapplied for
another term. Williams’ membership on the board has been questioned by
opponents of Pavilion Partners, which seeks to refurbish the historic Dunes
Pavilion with the option to serve alcohol at the state park, and to build a
banquet center there.
Harper had served
on the board as South District County Commissioner Laura Shurr Blaney’s
appointment, beginning two years ago, but resigned in February 2016 to run
for state representative and continue pursuing a law degree. He was replaced
by Cathi Brown of Valpo Velvet Ice Cream.
McEuen, who was not
in attendance Thursday, works as an attorney in his firm, McEuen Law Office,
All other board
members whose terms expired last year have been retained, including the
Duneland representative Lisa Wodrich.
The board voted
unanimously to keep its officer slate from last year with Mitch Peters as
its president, Scott Tuft as vice-president, Richard Riley as treasurer and
Karen Webster as secretary.
Peters is the sole
Porter County Council appointment and starts his second year of a two-year
With 2017 here, the
board agreed on disbursing the $150,000 allotment of innkeeper’s tax for the
four County venues that attract visitors to the county.
The Porter County
Expo Center, the Memorial Opera House, and the Porter County Museum will
each receive $38,120, and the Porter County Parks and Recreation Department
will receive $35,640.
“These funds are
dedicated to promotional materials that is concentrated on bringing outside
visitors to (venue) events,” said board attorney David Hollenbeck.
The $150,000 was
the level the County Council asked to be disbursed for 2016 and 2017 during
its fall budget hearings, increasing the amounts for the Expo, Opera House
Director Christine Livingston said the venues have really benefited from
increased wedding traffic, particularly the Expo Center, and there has been
an increased flow of traffic to the Indiana Dunes Tourism wedding page. The
wedding page is being spearheaded by PCCRVC’s Community Engagement Director
Brooke Allen who reported she is working on new materials for more groups.
Allen said she is
expanding the events guide to include options for brides and grooms to
attract them to destinations in Porter County.
“They all bring
their friends and families with them and we can really reach a large
audience there,” Allen said.
Operations Director Nupur Arora reported that the Indiana Dunes Visitor
Center saw a total of 101,729 visitors in 2016.
That’s a record
number for the center, according to Weimer.
“The first nine
years that the center has been open, we averaged between 72,000 and 75,000
visitors per year. In 2015, we broke that record and had 88,653 visitors.
This is the first time ever for us to break 100,000 visitors,” she said.
Arora also told the
board that two rooftop HVAC units that were 10 years in age have been
replaced. Those will serve the vestibule and the theater.
Weimer said the
visitor center has purchased exterior security cameras after finding funds
in the budget.
the concept of having a Native American Ethnobotany Trail on the land
surrounding the visitor center.
The trail is being
developed in partnership with the National Lakeshore since the National Park
Service owns the land around the visitor center.
Weimer said the NPS
has applied for a $10,000 grant for the project and asked the board to
support the PCCRVC’s pursuit of a $10,000 grant through the Porter County
“We have a lot of
native plants at the visitor center. The native plants and the Native
American story go hand in hand because when the Native Americans lived here,
they lived off those plants,” Weimer said. “We want to make this a key
destination for people to stop and it blends well with the Visitor Center.
The land has some really cool features.”
Promotions Director Ken Kosky said the Calendar of Events Guide for 2017 is
out. The yearly activities guide should be ready by the board’s next meeting
in February, he added.
Kosky also said the
Indiana Dunes and Valparaiso Popcorn Festival are two attractions in Porter
County that are now featured in the book, “1,000 Places to See in the U.S.A.
and Canada Before You Die.”