Chesterton Tribune

County Park Foundation seeks assurance barn project will go forward this year

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By DOUG ELISH

The Barn will still be Raised.

Modifications and enhancements for the barn-themed activity center proposed for Sunset Hill Farm Park have delayed, but in no way derailed the Raise The Barn project, Porter County Parks and Recreation Board members said at their June meeting Thursday.

Discussing the project amid concern about slow progress from the Porter County Parks Foundation, the board indicated the plan remains for ground to be broken on the building, which will serve as an educational center as well as a location for receptions and possibly some county offices, by Oct. 1.

The foundation’s concerns stem from pressure from the project’s biggest private donor that if the building isn’t started by Oct. 1, it will request that its $100,000 donation, made 10 years ago, be returned.

“The foundation is concerned that the board isn’t interested in moving forward,” Ruth Jarnecke, who is also a park board member, said to the board speaking as the president of the foundation. “We need to get the barn started by Oct. 1 or we will have to return the donor’s money.”

Board member David Canright said that accusation was untrue and that the board wants to work closely with the foundation, not against it.

He, along with several other board members, also refuted the idea that the project has not been started, citing several recent cleanup projects that have prepped the land.

Before the new barn could be constructed, the old structures on the property had to be removed, the area cleaned of debris, a chicken coop had to be moved and testing and soil analysis had to be done. With the preparation work now complete, the land is finally ready for the new structure.

The last hurdle will be finalizing the plan for the center. The original structure was intended as a 4,000 square foot building with a price tag around $450,000. Since the original concept, additions such as office space, intended to increase the chance of obtaining more funds, have altered the plan.

Park superintendent Walter Lenckos said blueprints are currently being drawn up with the new proposal, but are not ready for public release. Despite that, he said he still expects the construction to begin by Oct. 1.

Park, Drainage boards

to work together

Lenckos said he has been approached by the County Drainage Board to work together to alleviate some of the flooding in Liberty Township near Meridian Road and 900.

Because of the disruption of the natural water flow to the park-owned pond and wetlands near 50 West, north of the railroad tracks, that area of the county has been prone to flooding. The pond is included in the proposed Brookdale Park.

Lenckos said the drainage board proposed that they try to remedy the problem by taking the lead on the project, which would include maintenance of an inlet into the pond that often becomes clogged.

He also said they are exploring the possibility of installing a pipe that would run from the tracks into the pond. This would improve the flooding issue by restoring the natural flow of water into the wetlands.

Camp numbers up

The number of children registered for park-run summer camps has already eclipsed last year’s total. Lenckus said that more than 300 participants have already signed up for Camp Funset and they are just entering the part of June that typically sees the biggest jump in enrollment.

The superintendent said he was confident that the parks would reach their goal of doubling last year’s figure to 480 participants.

Camp Funset offers a variety of camp programs running from June to August, including a film camp, a nature rangers camp, a wilderness camp and a creative kids camp. For information, call (219) 465-3586 or e-mail pcparks@porterco.org

Master plan update

The committee developing the park department’s five-year comprehensive plan has broken into its subcommittees and is in the fact-finding stage. The committee is in the midst of data research in the areas of land use, program use, demographics, various financial data and several other areas.

“It’s really a great group,” Lenckos said. “I’m excited about what it will develop.”

The final draft of the plan must be completed by April 2012, but a rough draft is due to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources by Dec. 15.

Plans are in place for a web site to be created so the public can see developments and the first public meeting on what should be included in the plan is planned for September. The board encouraged rsidents from across the county to provide input on what they would like to see in the plan.

“This is the time for residents to make their desires known,” board member Canright said. “We are encouraging residents from the county, including south county, to join in the discussion of the master plan.”

Brincka-Cross Garden

The board decided to hold off on discussions about further developments for the Brincka-Cross Gardens after a soil test showed that the proposed site for a parking lot was unsuitable.

Lenckus said he is in discussions with the three landowners in the area to form a new layout for the park and the board agreed to further discuss the issue when more information was available.

The theft of a large hosta from the property also prompted discussion about the need for a fence surrounding the gardens to prevent vandalism. Lenckus said the department should have the resources to build the fence.

In other business:

• The park board is considering obtaining an intern to assist in modernizing the park’s web site. Department research has shown that the cost of hiring a professional will be too high, but several area schools offer programs that could allow for the web site to be constructed “right and at the right price.”

• New forms for renting park space should be completed shortly. The rates and agreements will remain the same as last year, but the forms and application process will be streamlined for efficiency.

• Lenckos said the May 14 Spring Out Festival at Sunset Park was enjoyed by the 200 attendees despite the cold and rainy conditions. He said a strong vendor turnout, good performances and plenty of suggestions for handling the weather by attendees bodes well for next year’s event.

The next scheduled Park Board meeting will be at 6 p.m. on July 7 at the Porter County Administration Center at 155 Indiana Ave., Valparaiso.

 

Posted 6/3/2011