The Porter County
Park Board acquired a 63.5-acre parcel on the southwest corner of CR 650S
and Ind. 49 in Pleasant Township just north of Kouts in 2013. It was named
Aukiki Park in 2014, and at the Board’s Thursday meeting, 2019 budget
discussions concluded that the Board would not be forgetting about Aukiki
commissioned estimates for phase one of development at Aukiki from the
Duneland Group that came back close to $3 million for parking lots, seeding,
and utilities. In 2017, the Board opted to focus its financial energy on the
new grain bin education center at Sunset Hill Farm Park at the warning of
the County Council, who said there wasn’t enough money for both projects.
Thursday, the Board
discussed a list of capital outlays that it will be asking the County
Council to fund in addition to the funds allocated from the general and
non-reverting funds for normal operations. As part of that discussion, and
now that the grain bin education center is nearing the end of the design
phase, next steps for Aukiki park came up, and the Board began to discuss
where the funding for Aukiki could come from.
Craig Kenworthy said the Board’s options are to add the ask for Aukiki funds
to the capital outlays list, or present the asks together, or approach the
Porter County Community Foundation about funding it.
Kenworthy, for his
part, said “I keep hearing the money’s not there,” and that he thinks the
funds for Aukiki, if granted, would be more likely to come from the
Foundation than from the Porter County Council or Porter County
Annetta Jones responded, “It’s frustrating to hear that they aren’t excited
about funding it, because they were encouraging a few years ago that we
purchase the property for development. It seems like we had a lot of
momentum back then.” Kenworthy said he doesn’t believe either body has
written off Aukiki, but “they’re priorities are different than some of our
All members were in
agreement that the Board should make some kind of move to show that they are
still interested in pursuing development at Aukiki. Board Vice-President
Rich Hudson said there’s no harm in asking because the Board never knows
when it might get a yes, and added, “If we don’t keep it in front of them,
it could get lost as the offices change.” Member Drew Armstrong said “I
think doing nothing would be the wrong thing to do. I think we still have to
show them that we have a priority to it.”
question was when to make that move and exactly what move to make. Kenworthy
noted that the Board could ask for just enough money to set up the necessary
infrastructure at the park and add more features as funds become available.
He also noted that having infrastructure set up may make the project more
attractive to potential donors. Armstrong agreed but countered that asking
for the full $3 million in funding could show more commitment.
On the question of
when, member David Canright noted that asking for such a large sum along
with capital outlays could be intimidating to the Council. “I think if we
even want to be looked at for capital projects for our other parks, we have
to wait,” Canright said.
The Board took no
official action on the matter, but Kenworthy did note that as long as he
sits on the Board, it will not forget about the Aukiki project.
Superintendent Walter Lenckos provided the Board with the list of capital
outlays that will accompany the budget when it goes before the County
Council. The Board approved the list, along with the budget, unanimously
with member Chris Richardson absent.
The capital outlays
projects and requested funding are as follows: $60,000 for equipment
including new mowers or chippers, $40,000 for barn removal and residence
upgrades at Brincka Cross Gardens, $105,000 for parking lot and trail
development at Brookdale Park, $15,000 for an ADA compliant ramp at Dunn’s
Bridge County Park, $13,000 for phase one restoration at Hawk Ridge, and
$150,000 to fund the relocation of the animal program at Sunset Hill, as
well as playground development and campground upgrades. The total ask for
capital outlays is $383,000.