Starke County Residents Share Ideas for Spending Stellar Consolation Money

A county-wide art installation, more amenities at the Starke County Forest, and a relocated shelter at Wythogan Park were a few of the ideas Starke County residents had, when it comes to figuring out how Constellation of Starke should spend its $333,000. That’s the money the region was awarded by the state for being a finalist in last year’s Stellar Communities Designation Program.

During a public input session Tuesday, Constellation of Starke Executive Committee Member Jacque Ryan said the group has decided to focus on parks. “One of the main things that was communicated to us is that this really needs to have a regional impact,” she explained, “which is why we felt that sort of incorporating park projects, like just finding little things that we could tackle and splitting that money up as evenly as we could, would be a beneficial thing to do, just because it’s kind of hard when you have so many communities within a region to find something that’s going to really impact everybody the same.”

One idea raised by Constellation of Starke Project Coordinator Mary Perren was a public art project featuring locally-designed sandhill crane sculptures, inspired by the region’s logo, at various locations. “Something in San Pierre could be unique to the sandhill cranes and the railroads and the agriculture and the things that make San Pierre San Pierre,” Perren said. “Hamlet could be, possibly, more agriculturally-based. North Judson might be mint. Bass Lake might be, obviously, Bass Lake and the beach and things like that. Knox could be a lot of the Native American heritage.”

Knox Mayor and Executive Committee Member Dennis Estok said a project that would have a big impact at Wythogan Park would be to replace a shelter near the Yellow River with one closer to the splash pad. Others suggested more amenities like benches at the Starke County Forest, new playground equipment at the Bass Lake Beach, and a new map featuring all of the park facilities in the county.

Executive Committee Member Rik Ritzler said the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs would prefer one large project but might also allow two or three. However, he pointed out that one project could have multiple components. “We can define a project as a same type of upgrade around the county in the different areas as one project,” Ritzler said. “That’s if they’re all tied together.”

Those in attendance generally agreed that one, multiple-location project would be a good option. Ritzler added that how well the region does with that may go a long way in determining whether it gets a Stellar designation this year. Executive committee members said that could bring in $14 million in state funding for numerous projects.

Constellation of Starke plans to finalize the scope of the project during another public meeting on April 14. It will be held at 5:00 p.m. in Starke County Annex Building No. 1. The executive committee has until April 17 to tell OCRA what it plans to do with the $333,000.