Chesterton Tribune


Bugajski brings his skills to Porter as the new director of parks

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Despite having earned degrees in History and Historic Preservation, Brian Bugajski says the job he had in college was his favorite.

He enjoyed doing summer maintenance for four years with the Town of Cedar Lake’s Park Department because “I felt like I was giving back to the community.”

Bugajski, 29, plans to bring his enthusiasm for interacting with the public, working outdoors and being a steward of the community’s backyard to his new job as the Town of Porter’s first director of parks. Bugajski began in that position Jan. 31.

The director’s expanded job description is part of a reorganization of staff in the Porter Park Department. Bugajski was chosen over more than 30 applicants, in part due to his management skills, grant writing experience, recreation background and passion for civic service.

Although he grew up in Cedar Lake in Lake County, Bugajski said the first time he visited Porter’s Hawthorne Park was when he came for his job interview there. It was already dark but he said the Park Department’s website/Facebook photos and information showed it was a well-cared-for area with festivals and activities going on.

Since starting his new job, Bugajski said he’s even more impressed with what he’s found.

He anticipates his first year will be a learning experience of how the Town of Porter works. So far Bugajski said he’s been very inspired to see the number of festivals planned at Hawthorne and the rentals booked for use of its facilities and grounds.

Bugajski said eventually he’d like to move forward in making improvements at Porter’s five other parks now in various stages of development.

He also said he’d like to pull some technology into Hawthorne Park --- like being able to scan a code on a tree and have information about it pop up on a smartphone or tablet --- to interest children in nature and science.

Bugajski wants to build upon his past experiences and bring those professional skills to a transitional time for the Porter Park Department by working with Park Board members and staff. Porter’s long-time former park superintendent Jim Miller now fills the new position of trails/parks and facilities specialist, and the Park Board is being expanded to five members.

Bugajski begins his job at a busy time; needed drainage reconstruction at Hawthorne will be done, and it’s anticipated later this year the Orchard Pedestrian Way hike/bike trail through the park will break ground. Also, the need to draft a Hawthorne master plan has been discussed as part of a proposed upgrade of Porter’s nearby downtown.

The new director said he wants to build on existing relationships Porter Parks has with groups like the Lakeshore Drifters 4H Club and the Westchester Seniors that both meet at Hawthorne’s community building. “The more volunteers you have and people in the parks, the more pride you have there.”

Bugajski’s Master of Science degree in Historic Preservation from Ball State University’s College of Architecture and Planning led to his most recent position as project manager in the City of Lafayette’s Community Development Department, where he also took on the role of the city’s Historic Preservation Officer.

Last year his wife Kristi was named an assistant professor of Biology at Valparaiso University, so Bugajski said when he saw the Porter Parks job posting he knew it was something he wanted to pursue, especially because of Porter’s small-town atmosphere.

He will be introduced Feb. 12 to the Porter Town Council and will attend his first Park Board meeting Feb. 19.

Bugajski believes parks serve a wide range of human needs: they’re where fun happens, and where candlelight vigils take place when tragedy occurs.

"I want to be a resource to the community. I want to get out in the community and find out what people want because truly the park is their property.”


Posted 2/6/2013