VALPARAISO | While there is nothing more than a flat farm field now at the southeast corner of Ind. 49 and County Road 550 South in Morgan Township, Porter County Councilman Jim Polarek, R-4th, and other county officials can see much more.
What they see on those 55 acres is the county's fifth park and its first large recreational site south of U.S. 30.
They also see the first county park to feature active elements such as ball fields rather than more passive hiking and jogging trails.
"It's something citizens down here have been waiting for for a long time," Polarek said.
Porter County Commissioner Laura Blaney, D-South, said this week that the county has had two appraisals on the site and is preparing to close on the deal soon.
"It's a great spot," she said.
The parcel is alongside Ind. 49 and is close to Ind. 8, Kouts and Morgan Township schools.
The plan is to develop multiple fields for baseball, softball and soccer games, Blaney said. There also will be a shelter, fitness trail and trees added, and perhaps a swimming pool someday.
There is a real need for ball fields in the south end of the county, where youth sports leagues struggle to share a limited number of current facilities, Polarek said.
Blaney said the site will be developed in parts, which will allow portions to continue being farmed to generate income for the county.
Porter County Park Superintendent Walter Lenckos said Wednesday that parkland in the south end of the county was identified as a priority during the community needs assessment done last year.
"We heard loud and clear from folks," he said.
Blaney said the parcel will cost the county about $400,000. It will be paid for with proceeds from the local income tax that was approved last week by the County Council.
The county already operates Sunset Hill Farm County Park in Liberty Township, Brincka Cross Gardens in Pine Township, the Calumet Trail immediately north of the South Shore railroad tracks at the far north end of the county and Dunn’s Bridge in Pleasant Township.