Clearing the walking trails. Building fences. Cutting the grass. Planting
flowers. Hitching up the wagons. Greeting guests and answering the phones.
There’s always work to be done at Porter County Parks and Recreation and it
goes beyond just making sure the place looks spiffy.
The department has put together its master chore list for the entire year
created by board and staff who attended a retreat on Feb. 23.
Facilitating the retreat was Stu Summers executive director of the
Valparaiso Redevelopment Commission who lauded the department on becoming
more dynamic with its programming.
“What a change has happened in the last four years,” he said to the board at
its meeting Thursday.
Summers then listed for the public the seven “priority 2013 projects”
adopted by retreat attendees. Each priority will have “champions” who will
regularly report progress at each park board meeting throughout the year.
• The first priority is to campaign for the development and construction of
the $3 million Raise the Barn Education Center at Sunset Hill Farm. The
parks department aims to work with the County Commissioners, the County
Council, the Porter County Parks Foundation and outside groups to build the
center in the next two years. Champions for this objective include board
members Ruth Jarnecke and Annetta Jones and Parks Superintendent Walter
• Establish a level of service standards for all parks. This includes
maintenance for site amenities, trails, lighting and landscaping. A deferred
maintenance recovery plan will be delivered, as well as a capital equipment
replacement program and an operation plan for all parks and properties.
Champions are board president Rich Hudson and Parks Manager Matt Howton.
• Start a community and corporate sponsorship program to market the parks.
Details include expanded fundraising using what the department already has
in its coffers, exploring ways to advertise and bringing together
non-traditional user groups for the purpose of park functions and events.
Champions are board members Rebecca Tomerlin and David Canright and staff
members Katie Rizer and Geri Rose.
• South County land acquisition. The park department’s land acquisition
committee will work to help obtain two appraisals south of U.S. 30 while the
department will seek to secure County funding for the purchase and work with
board attorney David Hollenbeck to make an offer based on appraisals.
Champions are Lenckos and Parks Planner Ray Joseph and board members
Tomerlin and Craig Kenworthy.
• Develop a land acquisition policy. This policy will take into account
priorities identified in the community needs assessment. It will also
identify watersheds that are at risk of being impacted by development and
work with local conservation partners to identify best practices and locate
potential land acquisitions along streams and creeks. Champions are
Kenworthy, Tomerlin, Joseph and Lenckos.
• South field development at Sunset Hill Farm. The department will define
the scope of the field and what purpose it will serve, possibly a place for
a “pocket park” or prairies and trails. The cost for the development is
$32,000, half of which will come from grants. Champions are Hudson and
• Personnel Committee. Board members will work with the board attorney to
adopt methods to annually evaluate the superintendent. Those members include
Jones, Canright and Hudson.
Parks supporter Charlotte Read from the audience pushed the board to tie the
priorities to its budget to see they get accomplished.
Also during the relatively brief meeting, Lenckos announced he is the
“bearer” of a $5,000 grant gifted by the ArclelorMittal USA corporation. The
money will aid parks educational programming, Lenckos said, including the
Parents as Teachers programs at Sunset Hill Farm.
“We’re glad to have their support going into 2013,” Lenkcos said.
On the topic of education, Lenkos introduced the board to Nichole Schaefer
Murray who has been hired to be the department’s new educator in the
barnyard at Sunset Hill Farm.
The department will also receive $35,640 in venue funds from the Porter
County Convention, Recreation and Visitors Commission, just as it had in
years past. The board agreed to receive the money and follow the requirement
that it be used for attracting visitors to the parks.
While talking finances, Lenckos said the parks’ budgeted amount for
maintenance of the Calumet Trail had been reduced this year as the redesign
for the trail is taking place. The enhancements, he said, are not being made
by the parks department but by the County Commissioners who have an
agreement SEH Inc. for the engineering.
Last fall, SEH associates briefed the Commissioners on rebuilding a
three-mile portion the trail from Mineral Springs Road to Tremont Road which
has frequently been plagued with flooding.
Lenckos announced there will be a public input session for the Calumet Trail
project at the Indiana Dunes Visitor Center on Wednesday, April 3 from 6-7
Also, Saturday, April 13, registration for Camp FUNset will be at 9 a.m. to
12 p.m. at Sunset Hill Farm.
Lenckos is alerting parents not to waste time in getting registrations in as
he anticipates sign-ups will reach their max quickly.
The camp is open to children entering grades 1-7. The dates for the camps
run from June 10 to Aug. 2.