Sustainability, economic development thrive in Cedar Lake

2013-01-13T00:00:00Z 2013-01-28T08:33:04Z Sustainability, economic development thrive in Cedar LakeIan Nicolini Cedar Lake Town Manager nwitimes.com
January 13, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Cedar Lake is both the literal and figurative center of our community. While this presents several unique challenges for planners, it also presents exciting opportunities for a community to thrive at the intersection of sustainability and economic development.

The planning efforts of the community, elected officials and staff have yielded some exciting projects -- with many more improvements planned. In fact, seeking ways to both enhance the quality of the lake and strengthen our local economy have taken center stage in our planning efforts.

A quick trip around town shows that sustainable growth abounds. The largest such project currently under way is the new Strack and VanTil grocery store which is being constructed to meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards. It will be Cedar Lake’s first "green" building.

In 2012 we completed the last phases of our five-year capital improvement plan, which leveraged a total investment of more than $10 million in public infrastructure projects aimed at reconstructing local roads, strengthening our neighborhoods and reducing pollution from entering the lake. While there is still much to be done, these projects show a commitment to long-term improvement in Cedar Lake.

On the horizon, there are several more projects that focus on sustainable economic development. The town is working with the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelly Foundation and the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission to develop a greenway corridor plan along Founder’s Creek and Cedar Creek, which would ultimately extend from Lemon Lake County Park to Cedar Lake and Lake Dalecarlia.

We are also nearing completion of the feasibility study for the Cedar Lake Ecosystem Restoration Project with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and a vital community partner, the Cedar Lake Enhancement Association.

Partnership is an important word for a community of Cedar Lake’s size. Resources are scarce, but they go a lot further when there are other agencies that share your mission. Our partnerships with agencies such as the Cedar Lake Enhancement Association and South Shore Clean Cities have yielded tangible improvements in our community.

The Cedar Lake Enhancement Association has leveraged hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations and grants into several projects around the lake aimed at reducing erosion and restoring sensitive habitats. We've been the fortunate recipient of grants from South Shore Clean Cities to reduce emissions and lower costs. The electric vehicle we use for local transportation and traveling to read water meters is an example of our partnerships saving money and promoting sustainability.

It’s exciting to see that these public investments are yielding private investment as well. New housing construction in Cedar Lake has doubled this year, and we've welcomed several new business developments to town, including the Franciscan Physicians Network Cedar Lake Health Clinic, Luke Oil service station and convenience store, CVS, and Strack and VanTil with interest from new business at an all-time high.

There are so many assets in Cedar Lake today: excellent schools, a growing business community, strong partner organizations, and an active and engaged citizenry. Our focus now is to encourage innovation, develop solutions, and provide incentives for continued economic investment to ensure that Cedar Lake achieves and sustains its potential for generations to come.

Ian Nicolini is Cedar Lake's town manager. The opinion is the writer's.

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