Chesterton Tribune


Porter County parks board and staff agree on objectives for 2013

Back to Front Page





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 Lenckos.

• 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 Joseph.

• 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.

ArcelorMittal grant

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.

Calumet Trail redesign

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 p.m.

FUNset registration

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.


Posted 3/8/2013