Chesterton Tribune

 

 

Championship croquet facility proposed for Dogwood Park

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By KEVIN NEVERS

The Chesterton Park Board could decide as early as its next meeting, on Oct. 2, whether to grant the Northwest Indiana Croquet Association (NWICA) use of about an acre of land at Dogwood Park on which to build a championship four-court croquet lawn.

Chesterton attorney and NWICA Director Michael Sawyier told the board that his organization--which is applying for 501(c) not-for-profit status from the IRS--would fully pay the estimated $235,900 construction cost of the project and all ongoing maintenance costs, as well as the expense of various ancillary items, including a three-rail wood fence around the lawn ($36,900) and a clubhouse/storage facility ($60,000).

The facility would be built at Dogwood Park East, immediately east and north of the sidewalk complex. Not only is the location at Dogwood Park “perfect” for the lawn, Sawyier told the board, it would be the only four-court championship facility within 400 or 500 miles.

That means, U.S. Croquet Association President Russ Dilley said, the Town of Chesterton would be the destination in the Midwest for regional tournaments, two of which--with between 30 and 60 competitors each--could be scheduled every season, from April through September, plus an additional two invites. “And those people will need hotels and restaurants,” Dilley added.

Even so, Dilley said, “developing local players is maybe more important than bringing in tournaments. We don’t want to crowd out the local interest. “

Sawyier said that the croquet facility would “benefit the public interest” in a number of ways. “It will promote the active participation by older people in Chesterton, greater Porter County, and elsewhere in the Northwest Indiana in a graceful, unstrenuous, outdoor sport,” played by “millions of people elsewhere in the United States” though “as yet little-known and much-less played in Northwest Indiana.”

The facility would also--among other things--“enhance the many existing amenities at Dogwood Park”; would attract new visitors to the park from across the region and Chicagoland; and would burnish the image of “Chesterton and Porter County at large as a place of culture and refinement permanently linked to this elegant, historical sport,” Sawyier said.

The timeline: ground would break this fall, the lawn would be seeded in the spring, and--after it’s taken suitable root--Sawyier is hopeful that the facility could be used by Aug. 1: possibly to coincide with the annual Chesterton Art Fair.

“We’re prepared to pay for every penny of it,” Sawyier emphasized, from the NWICA’s annual membership dues; from fees paid by non-member competitors; and from corporate sponsorships. “We have the financing for doing this. You won’t pay a dime. But we need the land.”

Membership dues for the NWICA are around $500, Sawyier noted. “But the more members, the lower the cost. It’s not way out of line. But we’d like to keep the cost down.”

Public/Private

Members did voice some concerns about the public’s access to the facility, which will be fenced, Dilley said, to keep bikes and ATVs off the pitch. “We have to protect the private lawn from the public.”

Other nine-wicket courts outside the championship lawn could be made available on an ad hoc basis, Dilley also said, “just as a service to the public.”

When asked specifically, however, by President Paul Shinn about public access to the championship lawn itself, Sawyier said that “free weekly clinics will be held inside the court but the court must be kept perfectly manicured, so access would have to be somewhat limited.”

On the other hand, Philip Farese, an NWICA member, noted that the Duneland Soccer Club--a private entity--“uses a lot more property” at Dogwood Park West than the acre of land which NWICA is proposing.

After the meeting Chesterton Town Council Member Nate Cobbs, R-4th--who also serves as NWICA vice-president--told the Chesterton Tribune that there would be no practical way to prevent members of the public from using the championship lawn itself when not being used by NWICA.

“I don’t think we’d be able to,” Cobbs said. “We expect to post signs asking folks to be respectful. It’s a large investment but we want it to be enjoyed by everybody. We want the public involved. If we wanted it to be private, we’d buy the land ourselves. I just think we’ll need to work together to be respectful.”

When pressed again by the Tribune, whether the NWICA has any intention of enforcing limited access to the championship lawn--say, by filing complaints with the Chesterton Police Department or seeking the issuance of trespass warnings--Cobbs said no. “We’re not going to stop you. We can’t stop you. We just want to work together to be respectful.”

Under Advisement

Members in the end voted unanimously to take the proposal under advisement. Shinn noted that there is a certain need to proceed quickly, if NWICA hopes to break ground this fall, and should it be necessary a special meeting could be scheduled prior to its next regular meeting, in October.

Meanwhile, Associate Town Attorney Connor Nolan said that he would review the legalities of the licensing agreement proposed by Sawyier, in lieu of an actual lease of the property.

Sawyier did say that NWICA has not yet received its 501(c) status from the IRS but is hopeful of obtaining it soon.

The NWICA previously approached the Porter County Park Board about the possibility of a similar arrangement at Sunset Hill Farm County Park in Liberty Township, but that proposal appears to have withered on the vine.

 

 

 

Posted 9/5/2018

 
 
 
 

 

 

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