Chesterton Tribune



Porter County Parks working on final touches for Zona Sanctuary partnership

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The Porter County Park Board is in talks about collaborating with the Wildlife Management Advisory Board and the Zona Wildlife Sanctuary.

About a year ago, the Porter County Wildlife Management Advisory Board began discussing collaborating with the Parks Department on some of the operations at the Zona Sanctuary. Park Board Attorney David Hollenbeck has been working on writing a memorandum of understanding outlining how the two entities will work together, but needs more feedback from the Porter County Board of Commissioners to call it done, he reported at Thursday’s Park Board meeting.

The Sanctuary will remain property of the Commissioners, but the Wildlife Management Advisory Board may begin reporting to the Park Board instead of the Commissioners, Parks Superinten-dent Walter Lenckos said. Lenckos said Hollenbeck still wants to get questions answered about chain of command and what projects will require the Commissioners’ approval.

When the discussions first started last January, it was said that the Parks Department might share maintenance work and financial resources as part of the agreement.

Staff Report

In other business, Lenckos reported the acquisition of the Smith property, 35 acres adjoining Brincka-Cross Gardens in Pine Township, is moving forward, though he was asked to provide additional documentation for one of the grants that’s slated to fund the purchase. Lenckos still hopes the sale will close in March.

2020 Program Guides are being printed and will be mailed out soon, according to Lenckos.

Lenckos reported program activities have been slow due to unpredictable weather, but some programs, such as a Kutzko Dog Training class at Sunset Hill and a Valparaiso Public Library acrylic painting program have drawn people out. There will be more acrylic painting programs this month and in March, and the “Good Dog” training programs will continue throughout the year, Lenckos said.

Lenckos reported the Northwest Indiana Croquet Association, which has been interested in negotiating a lease with the Park Board to build four championship croquet courts at Sunset Hill Park for some time, has expressed a willingness to help fund improvements to the farmhouse at Sunset Hill if it can use the facility as a clubhouse for players during future events. The Group’s attorney, Michael Sawyier, has shown the Board plans for the courts, but is still working out the details of a lease.

New Park Board in Limbo

Since the Porter County Council in October passed an ordinance to change the make-up of the Park Board, one new member still needs to be appointed.

The ordinance eliminated the circuit court judge’s appointing authority, gave authority for one appointment to the County Auditor, and gave the Board of Commissioners two appointments instead of one, per a 2019 law that allows counties to change-up their respective park boards.

The Council didn’t gain or lose an appointment from the change. They reappointed Board members Craig Kenworthy and Drew Armstrong last month, and County Auditor Vicki Urbanik has appointed Erin Labovitz.

Despite their announcement that they would make their appointment at the Jan. 28 Commissioners meeting, the Commissioners have yet to fill their new seat. Since they’re bound by state law to appoint two members of opposite political parties, their new appointment must be a Democrat.

Lenckos said he hasn’t received word about whether the lack of appointment is due to a lack of candidates or some other issue. The Park Board has continued meeting in the same configuration it met last year because Hollenbeck’s legal opinion is that the Board remains the same until all new members are appointed.



Posted 2/11/2020




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