Chesterton Tribune

County park board gets a look at proposed five year plan for BrinkaCross park

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With a backdrop of blossoming tulip trees, flowering dogwoods and showy daffodils the Brinka-Cross Gardens proved the ideal setting for this week’s meeting of Porter County Park and Recreation Board.

As rain dampened the area, the board was treated to power point presentation of an consultant’s plan to restore the once neglected 36 acre Furnessville property to its intended purpose as a “horticultural work of art. “

Leading off Thursday’s discussion, board president Richard Hudson recalled a similar meeting two years ago when the board first met to discuss the future of the park.

“As I recall,” said Hudson, “it was raining that night also and we never thought then that it would look anything like it does today.”

By the time the county purchased the property it had been long neglected and invaded by weeds and fallen branches, the overgrown vegetation hid the once artistic gardens and exotic plants created nearly 50 years ago by a now deceased art professor.

Chuck Lehman of the Mishawaka architectural landscape firm Lehman and Lehman, said, “Thanks to your efforts and the work of the many volunteers, staff and others the site’s original beauty is being discovered.”

The park board purchased the Pine Township property near Furnessville in 2007. At the time many felt the property held promise for the future and could someday become a regional tourist destination. With this goal in mind the board hired Lehman to develop a master plan to help meet that goal.

Walter Lenckos, Porter County Parks Superintendent noted an 8 foot sign was recently erected acclaiming the park as a place to visit. Previously there was nothing indicating what the property was, who owned it, or what it contained.

“The sign will attract those driving by and they will be called to come in and see what the park is becoming and what it will be,” said Lenckos.

Although future plans call for adding many modern amenities Lehman explained the plan will not detract from the designer’s intention, the property be “a place that uses gardens as both art and educational experiences. It will still be a place for people to see the art and learn from the experience,” said Lenckos.

To date, research and property cleanup, or what Lehman terms “garden archeological recovery” has uncovered 11 distinct gardens along with a wide variety of plants and flowers unique to the region.

“It’s like peeling back the layers of an onion; each layer presents something new that was hidden,” Lehman said.

Lehman said the site has over 400 different species of hostas, 10,000 daffodils, and 25 different types of grasses.

“Costs of completing the entire project are estimated to be under $3 million which includes the cost of restoring a Frank Lloyd Wright influenced house situated in the center of the property.

Lehman told the Chesterton Tribune that many of Brincka’s other artistic creations and collections are currently on display at a Michigan City museum. He hopes someday these can be returned and be on display in their original setting of the Brinka-Cross home.

Lehman does not take credit for coming up with the plan; he attributes it to a combination of work and suggestions from the park board members as well as input and support from neighbors and Friends of the Park

In conclusion, Lehman said “I see this area becoming the County Park’s Crown Jewel.”



Posted 5/6/2011