Chesterton Tribune

 

 

New PCCRVC members replace Williams and Olson; Visitor Center hits record

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

The Porter County Convention, Recreation and Visitors Commission board welcomed County Commissioner appointees Jesse Harper and Patrick McEuen at its reorganization meeting Thursday.

The appointments 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.

PCCRVC Executive 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, in Portage.

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 term.

Venue funds

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 and Museum.

PCCRVC Assistant 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.

Record visitor number

Also Thursday, 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.

Native American Trail

Weimer announced 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 Community Foundation.

“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.”

Visitor Guides available

Meanwhile, 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.”

 

Posted 1/23/2017

 
 
 
 

 

 

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