Chesterton Tribune

 

 

Park board gets glimpse at Calumet Trail enhancements

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

Staff from SEH Inc. were on hand at the Porter County Parks and Recreation board meeting Thursday to share ideas on making the Calumet Trail one of the best in the state.

The Munster-based firm has been contracted by the County to redesign and engineer the westernmost two miles of the trail, from Mineral Springs Road to Tremont Road, which has had problems with standing water.

Project manager Gregg Calpino said the section of the trail will be paved and the firm has been seeking input from the public on what other enhancements could be undertaken.

In public workshops held recently, two approaches have been formed Š one would focus on restoring the trail itself with wayfinding signage and mile markers, while the other looks to improve the environmental aspect.

From this, SEH was able to come up with two alternatives Š The “High and Dry” concept or the “Green Mile.” There is also an alternative that is a hybrid of the two, building up the trail around the South Shore Dunes Park train station while increasing the natural aspects on either side.

Calpino said all three alternatives would fit within the $2 million budget set for the project. The funding comes mainly from a federal transportation enhancement grant and some from the Northwest Regional Development Authority.

The “High and Dry” option, which has been ranked the most popular option so far, would have a two-foot concrete ribbon curb and a new box culvert to control drainage. It would also have a trailhead next to Ind. 49 which would connect it with the Dunes-Kanakee Trail with amenities such as benches and possibly a shade structure.

Board member David Canright said he feared the signage could be susceptible to vandalism like the covered bridge that was recently removed. Calpino said signs and amenities would be located in visible, open space where surveillance would be possible, unlike the bridge which he said was located in a remote area.

Calpino said that work is expected to begin next spring and there will be a public meeting soon to discuss the final concept. SEH has also met with stakeholders such as NIPSCO, which owns the right-of-way that the trail is located on.

The ultimate goal, Calpino said, is to make the trail the best of its kind in the state since it connects with other trails and national and state parks.

“It has the potential to be something really magical,” he said.

Parks Superintendent Walter Lenckos said the parks department is responsible for maintaining the Calumet Trail but the park board will not have final say on how the trail is designed. The approval will need to come from the County Commissioner board, Lenckos said.

Raise the Barn

Later, the board deliberated what its next move should be in the charge to get funding from the County on the Raise the Barn project at Sunset Hill Farm County Park.

The funding motion was tabled by the County Council a second time when the request for $1.5 million from hospital sale interest funds was resubmitted, but Council members did not indicate when they would consider it again, Lenckos said.

Board member Craig Kenworthy, who was at the council meeting, said one of the County Council members wished to see a business plan showing how funding will be maintained. Other County Council members at that May 28 meeting said they had concerns about allocating the funds when they did not yet know how much will be received in the County’s general fund from the spring tax levy draws.

Park board attorney Dave Hollenbeck said there is not much the board can do in this situation since it seems factors beyond its control are stalling the situation. Board member Rebecca Tomerlin said there are a few things the Council is trying to “iron out” and hopes it won’t take too long.

Lenckos said programs at Sunset Hill Farm are overreaching their capacity and having the administration building for more programs will help meet that demand.

“We still are positive for the project. There is still a need for it,” he said.

Other Business:

*  The board unanimously approved the purchase of a replacement Kubota utility vehicle at a total cost of $17,124.40 at Lencko’s request for staff to use at Sunset Hill Farm. Lenckos said the department is also interested in purchasing a mower but the funds are not yet available.

*  Lenckos said the annual Spring Out to Sunset Festival last month was “a huge success,” bringing out more than 400 visitors. He reported further success in recreation programs for youth, particularly Girls on the Run at Sunset Hill Farm and Go FishIN at Brookdale. There will be a new 8-page program guide which will be mailed out to 62,000 homes in the next few weeks, printed in a larger font than the previous edition.

*  New trail guides for Sunset Hill Farm will be made available soon that will also be easier to use. The department looks to recondition some of the trails to adapt them for multiple users and less vulnerable to erosion.

*  There is a new sign now at Dunn’s Bridge making it clear that it is a county-owned park. Lenckos said it’s positioned of the bridge where vandals cannot reach it and is visible from the Kankakee River.

*  Tomerlin said that it is likely by next meeting the Land Acquisition Committee will have a policy ready regarding the proposed South County park in Morgan Twp. She also said the committee is waiting to hear back in the next few weeks from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources whether a $150,000 grant will be awarded to build trails at Brincka-Cross Gardens.

*  Canright said he read news of the Northwest Indiana Paddling Association and other various organizations opening up free overnight campsites for boaters on the Kankakee River and thought it would be neat if one could open up in Porter County. The Dunn’s Bridge area would be a good possibility, Canright thought, but the campsites are planned to be accessed only by paddlers and boaters. Nonetheless, Canright said there are other areas of public land along the Kankakee in Porter County that may be suitable if the groups were interested in working with the park board.

 

 

Posted 6/7/2013