Chesterton Tribune



Porter County Park Board still set on Aukiki plan

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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 anytime soon.

The Board 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.

Board President 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 Commissioners.

Board member 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 priorities.”

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.”

The lingering 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.

Capital Outlays

Parks 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.


Posted 7/10/2018




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