Northwest Indiana is fortunate to have a variety of local agencies that strive to make our community a better place to live. And I am fortunate to work for one of those agencies.
In the world of public service, phrases like "natural play," "family time" and "thank you" are not always the first that spring to mind. But, as the superintendent of Porter County Parks and Recreation, I get to hear these words all the time.
The Porter County Parks and Recreation Department conducted a comprehensive needs survey last year to determine strategic priorities for the next five years. I was not surprised to find that our community reflected the rest of the nation in its perception of local parks and recreation.
Residents want us to make our community a better place to live, to contribute to the health and wellness of residents, preserve open space, maintain trails and work to improve the local environment and economy.
Several local parks departments are working hard to meet resident needs.
Besides completing an additional two miles of pathways, the Valparaiso Parks Department completed its first full season of operation at Central Park Plaza last year as a community gathering hub and a catalyst for downtown economic development. Plans are being developed for an additional phase of Central Park Plaza, with construction to begin late this year that will increase capacity and enable events and participation year-round.
The Crown Point Parks and Recreation Department had its first complete Junior Bulldog football season at Phase 1 of the new Sportsplex on its two “turf” multi-purpose fields. Phase 2 of the Sportsplex project will be completed next year, providing three more adult-size softball fields for expansion of leagues and tournament capabilities.
The Schererville Park Department opened the Perry Ferrini Dog Park and completed renovating the Elm Ridge Park playground. Officials expect to open the Schererville Community Center at Scherwood Park this year.
LaPorte recently added a trailhead sign and trail markers to seven miles of mountain bike trail and this year will celebrate the 100th anniversary of Fox Park.
The Highland Parks and Recreation Department completed construction of the newly remodeled Lincoln Community Center. The highlight of this $11.3 million project is the 8,000-square-foot fitness center with state-of-the-art equipment. The department also repaved three miles of the Erie-Lackawanna bike trail.
LaPorte County Parks constructed an innovative play trail at Luhr Park. The trail is perfect for families, children and the young-at-heart.
The Porter County Parks and Recreation Department was excited to develop a Community Garden at Sunset Hill Farm, open the Brincka Cross Gardens in Pine Township to the public, offer the Girls on the Run program to area elementary school students and begin to deliver free Take Me Fishing programs at Dunn's Bridge County Park near Kouts.
Each of these accomplishments and achievements is due to the support and backing of residents, respective boards, volunteers and sponsors. Thank you to each of you for allowing us to make Northwest Indiana a better place to live through parks and recreation.