Chesterton Tribune



Suggestions abound for upgrades at Porter Park facilities and grounds

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Bicycle rentals, a public amphitheater and outdoor restrooms at Hawthorne Park. All were suggested as possible improvements for the Porter Park Department’s updated master plan covering 2014-2018.

A public input session took place Tuesday. How to fund the wish list wasn’t addressed, but Park Board member Jeff Bailey cited constrained finances as a weakness that already challenges park operations today.

Park director Brian Bugajski said Porter has six park properties --- Hawthorne, Porter Cove, Dune Meadows, Indian Springs, Lake Charles and Stephens Park, the latter two undeveloped --- but most suggestions generally were applicable to Hawthorne.

Other potential opportunities listed by Bugajski, Park Board members and four residents who attended the meeting were a dog park, a camping area for supervised group overnights, a water splash pad, a public swimming pool, posting historical information about Porter, tennis/racquetball facilities, and a new art barn/summer program building.

The Orchard Pedestrian Way hike/bike trail is under construction through Hawthorne and one resident wondered how it will change the park’s quaint nature and what impact that will have on future park uses. Bailey questioned a possible lack of parking because the pedway cuts across part of Hawthorne’s overflow lot.

On the job eight months, Bugajski said he perceives as a Park Department strength its “small group of dedicated volunteers who in heat or rain are doing right for the community out of the goodness of their hearts.” He also noted, “We’re not just a bricks-and-sticks organization. We have programming and festivals through the year.”

Speakers agreed, saying the Family 4th Fest that celebrates Independence Day gets better every year, the children’s Safety Fest is well received, and the return of the Duneland Seniors group to Hawthorne is a success story.

Park Board members had their own suggestions.

Ross LeBleu said the park could rent bicycles like the Divvy ride-sharing stations in Chicago, and foster more community outreach forming partnerships with business to help fund projects. Rondi Wightman said it makes sense for the Park Department to administer Porter Beach since it’s a town recreation area.

Other ideas mentioned were installing more park lighting, which also was addressed during the Park Board business meeting; a park public-address system; security cameras and upgraded electrical service. Bugajski said PVC wire chases were installed under the pedway to facilitate future electrical work.

The director said when the five-year plan was updated previously, 100 completed community surveys were returned; he has 30 now and hopes to have 200 surveys by the Dec. 13 deadline. Copies of the current survey can be obtained at the Hawthorne community building, the Porter town hall, Hageman Library and online through the Porter Parks page on Facebook.

Wightman said, “What I really admire is that we’re open to the community’s suggestions.” Bugajski said soliciting input is good management. “These parks are the people’s parks.”

Having an updated master plan makes the Park Department eligible to receive state grants.


Posted 10/16/2013