Chesterton Tribune



Porter County Parks Foundation reaches out to County Commissioners

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The Porter County Parks Foundation has taken issue with the County Commissioners’ interpretation of the facts regarding their attempt to build the new animal shelter on U.S. 6 in Sunset Hill Farm County Park.

At the end of the Commissioners’ meeting Tuesday, Parks Foundation President David Nevill read a prepared statement referencing comments made by Commissioner Jeff Good, R-Center, at a meeting of the Porter County Council on May 24 that appeared in the Chesterton Tribune.

At that meeting Commissioners presented to the Council the building plans for the new Shelter which will be built at a site northwest of the County Fairgrounds on Ind. 49 near Division Rd.

Good told the Council that the Commissioners had previously looked at other locations to find a suitable spot for the Shelter, one of them being Sunset Hill Farm.

Contending it was “probably one of the better sites” with closer proximity to Portage, Good said the effort was “vehemently pushed back” because “the Parks Foundation wouldn’t have anything to do with it.”

The Foundation, which acts as a non-profit organization to support the Porter County Parks Department, owns a few of the parcels at Sunset Hill and has gradually transferred acres over to the County Park Board. The Commissioners had eyed a parcel along U.S. 6 belonging to the Foundation.

Nevill on Tuesday said he wishes to defend the Foundation’s prior leadership who had the passion to lead “a cooperative effort” in finding what would best benefit the people of Porter County. The Foundation, in its statement, stands against the claim that they were not willing to then work with the Commissioners.

“We are saddened by events that may have caused a perception that we are a non-cooperative organization,” Nevill read in the statement.

The Foundation is interested in the pursuit of having cooperation and communication, Nevill said, with “the development and implementation of activities that improve the lives of people in our community through park development, land acquisition and stewardship.”

Examples of this are the internship program the Foundation is collaborating on with local universities and other non-profit groups, the Westchester Migratory Bird Sanctuary, a comprehensive master plan for the County Parks and further development of its properties, said Nevill.

“We look forward to strengthening our communication with hopes that this effort can lead to clearer opportunity for our interest to align with that of yours,” Nevill told the Commissioners.

Commissioner President John Evans, R-North, thanked Nevill for presenting the statement and asked fellow Commissioner Laura Shurr Blaney, D-South, to respond since she went to a County Park Board meeting in 2013 to discuss the matter.

Neither Blaney or Good backed down from the comments made that the Foundation had rebuffed the concept of the Shelter at Sunset Hill.

“All I have to say is that we are finally getting a shelter built,” Blaney said.

“We didn’t vilify anybody. We just said they didn’t want it there,” Good told Chesterton Tribune.

Good, as it should be noted, was not yet a Commissioner when the debate over the over the Sunset Hill Farm animal shelter took place. He was elected in 2014.

The Commissioners announced that they were no longer pursuing a shelter on Foundation property at their Sept. 19, 2013 meeting.

Tribune articles in 2013 show that a number of parks supporters, not necessarily Foundation members, and neighbors of Sunset Hill Farm verbally told the Commissioners they were not in favor of having an animal shelter at the park because of safety, noise and traffic concerns.

David Yeager who was president of the Foundation at the time had said that handing over the land for an animal shelter would have put at risk the Foundation’s 501c3 non-profit status.


Posted 7/14/2016





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