Chesterton Tribune

County Park Department ready to hear from public on the future of parks

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The master plan for the Porter County Parks and Recreation Department has progressed to the public input portion of development.

To effectively gather that input, park superintendent Walter Lenckos has taken two major steps. The first was to schedule two open house sessions. The first will be a BBQ from 5-7 p.m. on Oct. 19 at Sunset Hill Park. Lenckos will personally cook hamburgers and hot dogs beginning at 5 and then give the public an update on the data collection process and hold an informal forum for public input.

“We wanted to provide something for people just to stop by after work,” Lenckos said. “We will provide some food and soda and talk about what we have found and give them a chance to give their opinion.”

The date for the November open house hasn’t been determined yet.

In the meantime, the park department has acquired the assistance of Leisure Vision Inc., a consulting company out of Kansas that specializes in recreational program development.

Lenckos said the master plan committee decided at the beginning of the process to keep the costs of creating the plan as low as possible, which meant limiting consultant fees, but with nobody on the board or in the department having developed a comprehensive master plan before a little outside help will prove beneficial.

It also helped that Leisure Vision’s quoted price was just about a third of any other quoted consultant price.

“There were some things we wanted to get some input on since none of us were around to create the 2007 master plan,” Lenckos said. “The committee also wanted to limit the amount of our own biases that got involved. We knew that might be tough so it will be helpful to bring on this company that specializes in recreation.”

For the $19,450 fee, Leisure Vision will conduct eight interviews with the board and staff, hold four focus group sessions and conduct at least 400 reliable surveys with Porter County residents either on the phone or online. Surveying that number of people is the minimum for getting statistically significant data for the project.

After collecting the information, the firm will provide Lenckos and his staff with the reports in time for the park board’s December meeting.

“This is going to be very important for planning the next five years,” Lenckos said.

Winter Lights 2011

Porter County’s 12th annual Winter Lights 2011 program is fast approaching. More than three miles worth of lights will be installed at Sunset Hill Park as part of this year’s program.

The lights will be installed soon with the official festival from 3 to 7 p.m. on Nov. 19. The festival will feature crafts, snacks, entertainment, a grand entrance by Santa Claus and close with a fireworks show.

“It’s really going to be an excellent event,” Lenckos said.

The cost will be $5 per car. The event is also a benefit for the Toys for Tots program so everyone is encouraged to bring unwrapped toys for donation.

Possible landlords

As part of the agreement in acquiring the land for the Brookdale Park site, the board allowed resident Bernie Michaels to continue living in the house on the property for up to three years. Michaels has since decided against staying there and gave up the house to the park department effective immediately.

The park board briefly discussed renting out the house for extra money or looking into whether some park programming could happen there. The goal was to avoid leaving it vacant so it won’t deteriorate.

Lenckos said his staff will look into the possibilities and report back next meeting.

Raise the Barn update

The Raise the Barn project continues to move forward, Lenckos said. He said currently $700,000 in funds have been raised and there are plans for bring more possible investors to look at the property in the coming weeks.

Jarnecke steps down

Citing health concerns, three-year board member Ruth Jarnecke stepped down, effective immediately, from her position on the board following Thursday’s meeting.

Jarnecke has made numerous donations to the park department, including money for a maintenance barn and a road grader for educational purposes.

“I want to thank Ruth for her service,” board president Richard Hudson said. “She took this position at a time in her life when I’m sure she had other things to do than come and sit here in this chair every month. She has done a lot for the park department.”

The Porter County Commissioners are immediately taking applications to fill the vacant seat for the final two meetings of 2011 and all of 2012.

Applications can be picked up at the administration center or online and will be accepted through Oct. 27.


Posted 10/7/2011