Starke County to Seek Grant Funds for Park Plan

starke-county-courthouseThe Starke County Park Board is moving ahead with efforts to complete a five-year plan for the county’s park facilities. Before the county is able to get most types of grant funding for park projects, it’s required to have a comprehensive plan in place.

To put a plan together, the Starke County Commissioners have suggested getting help from the Kankakee-Iroquois Regional Planning Commission. County Attorney Marty Lucas says KIRPC would help Starke County secure grant funding from the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs to help pay for the plan. “KIRPC writes the grant, and then if we get the grant, the next step would be to interview, actually, the planners who would write the plan,” he says. “And then you pick one and then go through that process.”

During Tuesday’s meeting, the Starke County Park Board voted to allow the County Commissioners to move ahead with enlisting the help of KIRPC.

But before the county can move ahead with the planning process, the park board first has to get a clearer idea of exactly what properties are under its control. To help with that effort, Lucas presented a preliminary list of about 17 properties that might potentially fall under the board’s jurisdiction.

It includes obvious ones, like the Bass Lake Beach and Campground and the Starke County Forest. However, it also includes other sites, such as land around Bass Lake and Koontz Lake that is not technically under private ownership.

Lucas also included a few park facilities that have traditionally been maintained by townships or by local residents that could also benefit from being included in the county’s park system. This includes various parks and open spaces in the San Pierre area. “So many of these originate as public dedications as part of plats from the late 19th century,” Lucas explained. “That’s kind of their common origin, and at that time it was very commonplace to include common areas in plats, but not anything more than just saying they’re common, public. They didn’t say who was going to manage them. They just said they were public.”

Also included on the list were a few locations, such as the Bass Lake and Koontz Lake dam access sites, that appear to be under state control, but may benefit from some cooperation with the county. Lucas says there are plenty of opportunities for partnerships with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, as well as some other groups, “Some of the examples are, obviously, the municipal park boards for Hamlet, North Judson, and Knox, and also some some of the things like Hoosier Valley Railroad Museum, who don’t just have the railroad museum, but they also are the owner of the right of way of the North Judson-San Pierre Trail and also the rest of the trail, the undeveloped part that extends east from 35, actually all the way to Monterey, though some of that’s outside of Starke County.”

However, in many of these cases, the property’s ownership is unclear, and Lucas stresses that additional research needs to be done before plans are finalized.