Chesterton Tribune

Boys and Girls clubs included in plans for new county park

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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 Park Project.

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 Richard Maxey.

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 county.

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 match made.”

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.

Outdoor Market Tabled

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.

Board Hires 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.



Posted 3/5/2010