Coffee Creek Park priorities identified in $13.6 million makeover

Rendering of the plans for Coffee Creek Park TOWN OF CHESTERTON/provided

Rendering of the plans for Coffee Creek Park TOWN OF CHESTERTON/provided

The first steps of a $13.6 million makeover for Coffee Creek Park would likely be to improve the pond and develop the grand downtown entrance across from Thomas Centennial Park, the town’s consultant says.

Jon Ruble of Planned Environment Associates of Chesterton presented a list of project priorities for the Coffee Creek Park project at the Dec. 7 Chesterton Park Board meeting.

The Park Board unanimously approved the master plan’s outlined priorities. Board member Paul Shinn said “he liked the way” the proposed master plan is laid out in phases.

It will take years to execute the master plan which is designed to improve the park’s amenities and to better link the 12-acre park behind South Calumet Road with downtown Chesterton. The projects will largely be funded through town funds, impact fees collected from new developments, federal and state grants and private donations.

Ruble said there are eight separate projects that have been identified. After a review, he said, improving the pond and developing the grand downtown entrance were identified as the starting point projects. Improving the pond is projected to cost $627,157 and the town has already applied for a Lake Michigan Coastal grant for $200,000 that would pick up a part of the cost, Ruble said.

The downtown entrance point would call for the development of a plaza in the 100 block of South Calumet Road, across from Thomas Centennial Park, and cost an estimated $970,255.

There is a building for sale at 107 S. Calumet Road that has been tentatively identified as a possible site. The board held a private executive session before the meeting to discuss possible land purchases. When assistant town attorney Connor Nolan was asked if any land purchases connected with Coffee Creek were discussed, he said “they could have” but could say no more.

The other projects that follow in priority and their cost include:

*$2,317,520 for floodplain improvements and the development of park trails.

*$732,550 for improving the present Morgan Avenue entrance and playgrounds.

*$3,326,748 for improving the Indiana Avenue entrance and beautification improvements for Lois Lane.

*$1,270,750 to develop an amphitheater and seating at Indiana Avenue.

*$992,979 for Indiana Avenue parking and development area.

*$3,391,407 for a multi-purpose event center.

In other business, the Park Board gave Park Superintendent Shane Griffin authorization to determine the site for new pickleball courts in Chesterton and to investigate the cost of developing them.

A number of pickleball advocates, led by Lori Laster of Duneland Pickleball, attended the meeting. They have been asking the Chesterton Park Board for more pickleball courts due to the growing popularity of the sport.

Paul Petro asked the town park commission not to use the tennis courts at Waskom Park for pickleball because they are consistently used for tennis. He said the area is also not equipped to handle traffic that could come from pickleball participants.

Laster said she concurs with Petro’s judgment and noted there are other locations, like Chesterton Park and Dogwood Park, that could provide suitable space for pickleball courts.

“We would like to work with the town and find the best location for these courts,” Laster said.

Griffin told the Chesterton Tribune after the meeting that a site for six pickleball courts has been tentatively identified at Chesterton Park, near where two courts already exist. Griffin said the final decision has not been made.

The Park Board also heard a repeated request from Richard Riley, proprietor of Riley’s Railhouse, to consider restoring the original name of Railroad Park to what is now Thomas Centennial Park. The downtown property was previously known as Railroad Park until its name was changed to honor the town’s founder. Riley has advocated that the town play up its railroad roots to help draw more rail fan tourism to the community.

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