Chesterton Tribune

County Park Board dedicates master plan in memory of Jim Perkins

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

The Porter County Parks and Recreation board members remembered their friend and former fellow board member Jim Perkins on Thursday after approving the 2012 Parks Master Plan with a 5-0 vote.

“I think Jim would be happy,” board president Rich Hudson said.

Perkins was integrally involved in structuring the plan when he and other park supporters set out to develop it more than nine months ago. Unfortunately he will not be able to see the fruits of his labor. Perkins, a longtime landscape architect and site planner who lived in Chesterton, passed away in January.

Parks Superintendent Walter Lenckos presented a plaque to Perkins’ wife Suzie Perkins, thanking her for “sharing” Jim and lightly apologized for “stealing him away” on park matters. Suzie, on her part, said she didn’t mind.

”This was one of the most important things to Jim after he had retired. He loved every minute of it,” she said.

The new master plan will serve as a guiding tool for the department of the next five years. Comprised of input from county residents, Lenckos said the document focuses heavily on trail development and connection to amenities as well as land acquisition for passive use and the preservation of wetlands.

It also reflects on the public demand to look for park land in the southern portions of the county. More calls for a south county park were sounded by board member Craig Kenworthy, who lives in Morgan Twp., and parks supporters Herb and Charlotte Read. Herb volunteered to “cruise the county” looking for land the parks could afford to purchase now that the master plan is complete.

All board members voted to accept the draft of the plan except David Canright who was absent from the meeting.

The plan will now be submitted to the Department of Natural Resources for review.

Lenckos said having a master plan is required to receive certain state and federal grants.

Board to select builder Monday for Raise the Barn

Other matters of business for the board included some promising news for the Raise the Barn project which has been in development limbo for the past 12 years.

Lenckos told the board the original firm proposing to do the construction, Luke Builds, had dropped out of the project and two proposals have been subsequently made by Chester Inc. of Valparaiso and Hasse Construction of Munster.

Kenworthy, who previously raised questions about potentially selecting Luke Builds for the construction, said he has worked with both Chester Inc. and Hasse and “couldn’t be happier” to see their interest in the project.

“We’re very fortunate to pick from these two firms,” he said.

Lenckos said he finds both bidders “reputable” and said it will be up to the board to choose which they feel will be their best option.

The board will hold a special meeting on Monday at 5:30 p.m. in Room 307 of the Porter County Administration Building to decide which company to award the bid to. The meeting will be open to the public.

The board did vote unanimously Thursday to ask the county council at their April 24 meeting for an appropriation of $2 million in the department’s contractual service fund for the Raise-the-Barn project.

Along with donations collected by the Porter County Parks Foundation, Lenckos said the department has approximately 25 percent of project costs in its pockets currently to fund the $3 million project. The $2 million from the council will cover 65 percent of the project.

Lenckos said a public campaign will be launched to help close the gap on the remaining 10 percent of funds needed.

Raise-the-Barn will be established as a public education and activity center in Sunset Hill Farm County Park where the old dairy barn used to sit.

Building is expected to start by the end of this year, Lenckos said, and should be completed within a year.

New website

Next Monday will be the launch date for the park department’s website, www.portercountyparks.org, which will be separate from the Porter County Government website where the pages are located now.

Lenckos said the site, which was developed in part by the county tourism commission, will be functional Monday, with more documents and features to be added gradually.

Brincka-Cross open for spring season

Lenckos announced that Friday is the first day Brincka-Cross Gardens’ spring programming. Earlier this week, plant material was delivered for the park’s sky garden at the front of the property.

The new parking area is still in the process of being reviewed by the county plan commission but Lenckos expects construction to start soon.

In other news:

• Registration Day for Camp FUNset will take place from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., Saturday, April 14, at Sunset Hill Farm, Lenckos said. The park saw record numbers of registered campers last year and is expecting more than 600 campers for this year’s camp. “It’s going to fill up very quickly this year,” Lenckos said.

Those who register on April 14 will get a $5 discount for each pre-paid camp registration. The first Camp FUNset starts the week of June 11 and the last runs until the start of August. The cost for each weeklong camp is $75.

• The board approved a measure to ask the county council to transfer unallocated funds from the park’s operating budget to purchase a new $41,000 tractor. Lenckos said a second tractor is needed for maintenance at all parks. He said he hopes to replace more of the department’s aging equipment.

 

 

Posted 4/6/2012