Chesterton Tribune

Porter County parks to seek hospital money for Brookdale and Sunset Hill projects

Back to Front Page






The Porter County Parks and Recreation board voted Thursday to ask that the Porter County Council give the parks department a share of the $9 million received in interest from the sale of Porter Memorial Hospital.

The board voted 6-0 after Richard Maxey, chairman of the parks’ Land Acquisition and Development Committee as well as the Parks Foundation, made the argument that the proposed Brookdale Park and educational center/activit barn at Sunset Hill Farm County Park will increase healthy lifestyles and educational opportunities for residents, believing the bang is worth the buck.

“What better way to spend the hospital money than to put it back into a healthy lifestyle for our kids. It will serve not only our generation, but for future generations yet to come,” said Maxey.

Board member David Canright made the motion including two parts: first, that the board explains to the county council the importance of the projects and second, that the parks superintendent and board president determine the best way to communicate the message.

The board may schedule a joint meeting with officials or bring the matter up at one of the three public forums the council is hosting in the coming months to gather input on how the hospital money should be spent.

Speaking from the audience, Joe Kusiak of Valparaiso suggested the board look at alternative ways for funding in case the council passes. “It’s a one-dimensional aspect only going for the hospital funds,” he said.

Brookdale to Be

Developed in Phases

Due to the estimated $16-17 million for determined last month by consultants JJR for the creation of Brookdale Park, Maxey said the development committee is looking to construct the park in piecemeal fashion as funding comes in.

The committee and JJR are meeting next Monday at 5 p.m. at Sunset Hill Farm to consider what should be the first phase of development. Maxey said the group will also be brainstorming ways to put together a “financial package” to cover expenses.

Proposed features for the active portion of the park, estimated at $12 million, include two baseball and two softball fields, soccer fields, and picnicking and playground areas. The passive area tagged at $4.75 million would feature hiking trails, possible interpretive centers, and a seven-acre onsite lake with fishing and canoeing amenities.

The site sits on 65 acres across from the Liberty Twp. Elementary and Intermediate Schools on CR 900N.

Parks Superintendent Walter Lenckos said the parks department will hold a third public hearing probably in February to decide on a design with JJR. That design will serve as the basis for the Master Plan of Brookdale which is eyed for an April 2011 completion date.

On a related note, Lenckos announced there will be a public input session for the Brincka-Cross Gardens Master Plan at the county building on Wednesday, Jan. 26 at 4:30 p.m. hosted by landscape architects Lehman & Lehman.

Raise the Barn Breaking

Ground in Spring?

Maxey said the Parks Foundation has raised approximately $200,000 which will be used to start the first phase of construction on the “Raise the Barn” project. The building made to look like a barn will serve as an educational center.

Maxey said he hopes to have the contracts ready in the next few days for the new building. The Parks Foundation is in the process of procuring a permit from the state which is needed before construction can begin. The county plan commission would also need to sign off on the plans, Maxey said.

If all goes accordingly, Maxey said groundbreaking for the educational center could take place in April. A ceremony is in the works inviting representatives from two private organizations who gave $5,000 each.

The Foundation is working to collect another $100,000 to cover the final costs for the center. Maxey hopes publicity surrounding the groundbreaking will get the ball rolling on gathering subsequent funds.

“With more publicity, it seems easier to raise funds,” he said.

The Foundation has also recruited grant writer Donna Blanchard to look for organizations willing to provide financial support.

Plans for the center have been in talks since 1998. The center will be located on the west side of where old dairy born used to be a Sunset Hill Farm and will be constructed using “green and sustainable” features to reduce operational costs.

The completed building will be used to house educational, recreational and environmental programs primarily for children.

Also at the meeting:

• A gathering of residents showed up to question the circumstances that led to the dismissal of a parks employee last month. Board President Rich Hudson gave no comment, nor did any of the other board members. Board attorney David Hollenbeck told the residents that the board is still acquiring background on the matter and cannot make comment on personnel matters until all the necessary information can be gathered. “We don’t want to rush to judgment,” he said.

• Hudson was approved by the board to carry on as its president for 2011. Also it was announced that Canright, who is managing editor at the Chesterton Tribune, was renamed to the park board for another four years by Porter County Judge Mary Harper.

• Hollenbeck reported a payment in the amount of $6,000 from Rhoda Farms was received stemming from a cash-rent agreement over the use of the 65-acre West Farm located near the county line on CR 1500N in Pine Township. The parks purchased the land in 2006 at a state auction as a way to bring in some income. The land was used as prison farm by the Indiana Department of Corrections. Hudson told the Tribune there currently are no plans to use the land other than leasing it for farming and said he’d like to keep focused on the parks’ current development projects to ensure those succeed.

• Lenckos said he will next week select candidates for two new full-time positions with the department, a communications director and a programmer.

• The department recently was able to obtain 35 bike racks through a tourism grant, Lenckos said. He also expects to acquire new signage for the Calumet Trail this spring.


Posted 1/7/2011