Chesterton Tribune

Porter looks to make Little Calumet a destination for kayaks and canoes

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By PAULENE POPARAD

Putting in launches for kayaks and canoes along the Little Calumet River in Porter will bring people into its downtown rather than bypassing it.

That’s the hope of town director of engineering Matt Keiser, who told the Porter Redevelopment Commission on Tuesday that work’s under way to clear the overgrowth and log jams that block river passage.

The Wildlife Habitat Council that specializes in ecological restoration is providing volunteer labor. The town’s received a $3,500 grant from ArcelorMittal for the project, said commission and Town Council member Michele Bollinger, and at her request the commission unanimously approved spending $2,500 to complete it.

In addition, FLEXCOR of Hammond is donating materials needed for soon-to-be-built launches at the Waverly Road and Mineral Springs Road river bridges.

“These aren’t going to be fancy launches,” said Bollinger. “Yes, they’ll be permanent, but the hope is someday people will use what’s coming at the park.”

She was referring to downtown Hawthorne Park, where plans have been discussed for a kayak/canoe rental and launch near the popular community building. Restoration work along the river approach northeast of the building has been ongoing for some time under the supervision of volunteer John Beckman.

Lyp asked who will maintain the Porter boat launches once built; Bollinger said the town Public Works Department likely will.

Lyp said since a portion of the Little Calumet River is in a designated town economic development area and the upgraded launch facilities will serve the interests of that district, approving the $2,500 is a legitimate commission expense.

After the meeting Keiser was asked if warnings, similar to the Lake Michigan E.coli beach warnings, will have to be issued for boaters along the Little Calumet if the Chesterton sewage treatment plant or a Porter lift station bypasses untreated/partially treated sewage into the river following heavy rain.

Keiser said there’s a difference between recreation on Lake Michigan and the river. “Kayaking and canoeing are supposed to be out of the water, not bathing or drinking or putting your fingers in it.”

Pedway news encouraging

After last month thinking the commission may have to up-front some money if it wanted to keep the planned Orchard Pedestrian Way hike/bike trail on track, Keiser reported the Federal Highway Administration on Friday approved an additional $125,000 for the project.

Previously $1.3 million in federal money was approved.

Attention turns now, said Keiser, to determining what aspects of the pedway appropriately can be assigned to Porter’s future leg of the planned Dunes Kankakee Trail that will intersect and could in part parallel the pedway.

For this reason pedway signage and amenities should be consistent with the larger trail’s look, he said.

The Dunes Kankakee will begin at the Indiana Dunes State Park and pass through Porter and Chesterton proceeding south generally along the Indiana 49 corridor eventually to the Kankakee River.

Porter received $911,500 from the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority for Phase 1 engineering and design related to its 3.95-mile Dunes Kankakee segment. Porter is seeking additional RDA money for that trail’s construction.

Keiser said by coordinating its trails Porter can avoid duplication of efforts and get the most bang out of the town’s buck.

Redevelopment Commission president Bruce Snyder said the trails will link with the Porter County visitor center at Indiana 49 and be an optimal mode of transportation to and through Porter. “Once we get this done I think it will be very special.”

No Brickyard partner yet

Keiser updated commission members regarding ongoing planning and timetables for the town’s proposed 31-acre Brickyard residential/commercial development at the southwest corner of Beam Street and Sexton Avenue.

Member Al Raffin asked if a development partner is involved in the process yet.

According to Snyder, “We’re not really sure when the developer would step in” although interest by potential partners has been expressed.

Lyp said the commission could solicit a generalized request for qualifications and proposals, but that could turn into a free-for-all. He recommended the commission firm up its larger template for what the project will look like and what members are looking for in a private partner before soliciting proposals.

 

 

Posted 8/11/2010