The Porter County Parks Land Acquisition and Development committee is adding
two more team members to efforts to develop the county’s first active park
that will include sports playing fields for the youth of Porter County.
The Porter County Parks and Recreation Board unanimously approved Thursday
including the Boys and Girls Clubs of Porter County and the Calumet Region
Striders in development discussions for what is being called the Brookdale
Other groups which have shown interest in assisting the parks department are
Liberty Rec League and the Duneland Soccer Club.
“These are worlds coming together,” said Development committee chairman
At their previous meeting in February, the board voted 6-0 in favor of
developing a mostly county-owned 65.3-acre parcel located between Meridian
Road and CR 50W near Liberty Elementary and Intermediate Schools on CR 900N.
Forty-nine acres are currently being planned for active purposes that will
feature soccer fields, baseball/softball diamonds and perimeter walking
trails while 17 acres are planned to be used for passive activities.
Tim Rice from the Boys and Girls Clubs of Porter County said the
organization would benefit from being involved in the development because it
is seeking a permanent location to meet their needs in the North part of the
The organization currently uses the First United Methodist Church Activity
Center in Chesterton on a short-term agreement. Rice said the organization
sees nearly 110 children daily and is reaching its capacity.
Rice said the Boys and Girls Clubs would like to seek a long-term lease with
the parks department with the possibility of building a facility on the
property which the organization plans to maintain themselves. He said
fundraising for the organization has been very successful and could provide
“wonderful” benefits to the Brookdale park.
Park Board Attorney Dave Hollenbeck said he also serves on the Boys and
Girls Clubs board and acknowledged their success. Calumet Region Striders
also expressed interest to be included in the discussion of the perimeter
walking trails, the board was told.
Board member David Canright made a motion to include the two organizations
in discussions of the Brookdale Park Project. All members of the board
present approved the motion.
“I think the possibilities are just unlimited and the Boys and Girls Club is
really going to bolster this,” said board president Richard Hudson. “It’s a
Maxey said the committee has been very busy “getting its ducks in a row.” He
said the groups are eager to get started but now is in the slow process of
surveying and engineering the property.
Board member James Perkins said he has written a Request For Proposals and
will be accepting engineering bids through March 16. The development
committee will present their recommendations in April to the park board.
Maxey also said he is interested in applying for a grant from the Indiana
Department of Natural Resources that could match the overall cost of the
Brookdale Park Project of up to $200,000.
The board decided a second time to table a decision regarding a request to
hold an outdoor market at Sunset Hill Farm County Park.
Tom Allison of Kouts said he would like to use the park on Sunday afternoons
from May to Sept. 15 to hold his Bargain Bazaar market. He said he hopes the
program will have more success at the park than what it sees at the Porter
County Expo Center.
The outdoor market is being planned through the Porter County Parks
Foundation headed by park board member Ruth Jarnecke. Jarnecke said this is
one way the parks foundation can meet its need to reach out to the public.
Allison said his organization is for-profit. He said vendors can purchase a
booth for $20 and expects to see up to 160 vendors each week. Allison is
looking to set up the booths in the area south of the park’s main parking
lot which enters from Meridian Road.
Members of the board said they felt having the outdoor market every week may
be excessive and suggested having the market once a month instead. Board
member Rebecca Tomerlin said she does not like the idea of having the booths
at Sunset Hill when she walks her dog there on Sunday afternoons.
Parks Supervisor Mike Howton said the plan may also interfere with other
activities scheduled at the park such as civil defense training for the
police department and weddings held at the gazebo area and amphitheater.
Canright said he was “puzzled” why the parks foundation would front for a
profit-making organization. He said the only way he would give his approval
is if the parks foundation hosted the event as a festival and that it would
be promoted by the parks department. He said the parks board has never
approved a request like this from a profit-making organization.
Westchester Township resident Herb Read, said from the audience that the
Porter County Parks Comprehensive Master Plan says the parks should endorse
programs that are for education, recreation and fitness. He said the plan
does not say anything about fronting for profit-making organizations.
“I think it’s a wrong use of public property,” he said.
Allison said he would be willing to set up the market at a different county
park or location, but said he wanted to use Sunset Hill because the park is
visible from U.S. 6 and would attract more people.
Consultant to Facilitate Superintendent Search
Hollenbeck presented in his report the option of hiring Valparaiso
Redevelopment Com-mission Executive Director Stu Sommers to give
professional advice to the board as it selects a candidate for the new parks
superintendent. The board unanimously approved the contract and agreed to
pay Sommers an hourly rate of $100 for his services.
Sommers also facilitated a retreat last fall for the park board that set
objectives and target goals. Hollenbeck said the board can revisit the
output from that retreat.
“We need to get back to these goals,” said Hudson.
Howton, who serves as a co-interim superintendent along with his son, Matt,
formally thanked the county building administration staff for their
assistance during the transition period to a new superintendent.