Chesterton Tribune

Plan unveiled for park at former County Home site

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By VICKI URBANIK

Plans were unveiled Thursday for a new county park on the site of the former County Home south of Valparaiso.

The plans include an approximately 6-mile trail to loop around wetlands, a youth soccer field, a t-ball field, a gazebo, and a picnic pavilion.

Porter County Park Superinten-dent Ed Melendez said the plans will now be presented to the Porter County Commissioners for their review. The plans would then be subject to public input meetings before finalized.

The county owns about 90 acres off Ind. 2 that used to include the County Home, which has been demolished. The county commissioners have proposed transferring that property to the park department for a new county park.

Melendez said it’s not yet known how much the park would cost to develop. In addition to using county income tax funds, the park department might be able to tap federal U.S. Fish & Wildlife service grants, especially given the presence of Salt Creek on the property and the restoration efforts underway along the creek.

Melendez said if the plans are approved by the commissioners, the park development could begin after the property is officially transferred from the commissioners to the park department.

The plans were prepared by the park department’s consulting firm of Jacobs, Edwards & Kelcee. Melendez said the conceptual plan sought to combine open space to preserve the site’s natural features as well as opportunities for active recreation. Adjacent to the property is a residential subdivision. In addition, Melendez said the park department has pursued the park plans in conjunction with the city of Valparaiso and its need for recreational sites.

Also at Thursday’s park board meeting, the park board approved a contract with the DLZ consulting firm for $54,765 to oversee the demolition and removal of the old Murray House and dairy barn at Sunset Hill Farm County Park. The total contract is $12,340 more than the initial bid after the specifications were redone, Melendez said.

Plans call for the park department to seek bids for the actual demolition in January. It’s possible that both structures could be demolished in March, Melendez said.

Also Thursday, park board president Harold Erwin issued a public thanks to the Porter County Council for its recent approval of three new full-time park employees in the 2008 budget. The unofficial county park budget for next year totals $476,027.

Erwin said the park department intends to demonstrate its definite need for the added park positions, two of whom are to be filled by horticulturalists who will work at the county park’s recently acquired arboretum in Pine Township.

“In order to maintain this land, we need more people,” Erwin said of the park department, which currently consists of three full-time employees.

Erwin also said the park board has the goal of making the county parks one of the finest park systems in Northwest Indiana. “With this council’s help, we’re going to do it,” he said.

Melendez said work is now underway preparing the job descriptions for each of the three new positions. In addition to the two horticultural posts, the other position approved was for a recreational supervisor. Melendez said that job description will likely be expanded to one of an educator who will oversee recreational programs as well as the naturalist programs.

Speaking from the audience, Charlotte Read said there has been talk of possibly relocating the Calumet Bicycle Trail as part of the discussions ongoing over the Marquette Plan. Citing the amount of federal grant money that has gone into the trail and the beauty of the existing trail, Read said she opposes any effort to move it. Melendez said he, too, has heard some of the talk involving the trail but does not have any details.

 

Posted 10/5/2007