Stellar Community Efforts Reviewed with Starke County Park Board

Constellation of Starke executive committee members shared their insights on the outcome of their Stellar Community application with the Starke County Park Board Tuesday. The region lost out on this year’s designation to Marshall County Crossroads.

Rik Ritzler is a member of both the executive committee and the park board. He said they’ll find out more between now and February, but it appears that the fact that Marshall County Crossroads was a finalist last year was a big advantage to them this year. “Some of the comments made when we were told we did not win made us feel like we were probably the second choice and that they were very impressed by the effort that we put in,” Ritzler told the rest of the park board. “But one of the ground rules for this Stellar designation was to take poor communities and help them do things they normally couldn’t do. I’m not entirely sure Marshall County fits in those parameters because they have more resources than we do, but I don’t know if that was anything to do with it or not.”

While it was noted that Constellation of Starke gave state officials a very good presentation, executive committee member Marty Lucas said that Marshall County Crossroad’s regional development plan was excellent. “There’s a reason they have classes in football, right?” Lucas added. “I would say we punched outside our weight group, but we were, like, seriously outweighed by that opponent.”

The Stellar designation would have made Starke County and its individual communities eligible for millions of dollars in state and federal grant funding. Park improvements would have been a big part of that.

Constellation of Starke will receive about $333,000 just for being a finalist. Ritzler said the committee is still discussing what to do with that money. “In February, they’re going to be detailing more on what we can and cannot spend the money on,” he explained. “There’s some restrictions under OCRA of what we can do. I think you can use some of that for planning for next year for the Stellar, if that’s what we want to do.”

Constellation of Starke may also use some of that money to start some of the smaller projects in the plan.