Hobart group wants city to expand Robinson Lake park area
By Karen Caffarini Post-Tribune correspondent September 11, 2012 12:54PM
Updated: October 14, 2012 1:28PM
HOBART — The Park Board was noncommital Monday when asked by Friends of Robinson Lake to give its support to adding the St. Sava property to Robinson Lake Park and keeping it as undeveloped woodland.
“We will have to take this under thought. We have no money to purchase property,” Park Board president John Hevel said.
Friends member Sandy O’Brien said she wants the city to make an offer on the 40-acre property, which she said is currently listed at $600,000. She was hoping the Park Board would say something positive about a purchase, pointing out the board already gave its blessing in its master plan.
Last week, Mayor Brian Snedecor promised the not-for-profit group he would reopen discussion with a real estate agent representing the current owners of the property, despite his reservations over the city taking on more public land. Snedecor said the financially strapped city would have to take on any liability issues and maintain the property at the same time that it is removed from the tax rolls.
O’Brien said the purchase wouldn’t necessarily cost the city any money, however, as funds would be available through a variety of grants. But she said the city would have to move quickly as one of the grant sources, the Bicentennial Nature Trust, already has given out half of its money.
O’Brien and other Friends members have expressed concern that should developers purchase the St. Sava property, they would want to put a road on Robinson Lake property, which they say would upset the park.
“We have a lot of lake, but not much land. I hope this will be resolved to the best use of the property,” O’Brien said.
Snedecor told the Friends last week the city has made no commitment concerning an access road.
In other Park Board matters, members agreed they would not pursue revisiting the city’s contract with the Hobart Chamber of Commerce concerning the chamber’s office in the old Pennsy Depot now that the chamber has verbally agreed it would no longer rent the building for profit.
Board member Charlotte Sills said the chamber was taking rental business away from the park district’s new Festival Park Community Center.
Snedecor said he talked to chamber Executive Director Mike Adams about the situation.
“They were renting the building out for showers and wedding receptions. The contract doesn’t allow for sub-leasing, and Mike said they would stop,” Snedecor said.
The building at 1001 Lillian St. can still be used by local organizations for free and Snedecor said the Parks Department will still handle outside maintenance at the property.
The chamber pays the city $1 a year lease for the building, which was park district property, under a 40-year contract crafted by former Mayor Linda Buzinec.
The Park Board also heard presentations from the Indiana Lake Michigan Coastal Program, water pollution coordinator for Indiana Department of Natural Resources and its own member, Sergio Mendoza, acting in his professional capacity as the Coastal Connections Resource planner about help available for various projects.
Maggie Byrne, grant specialist with the coastal program, said Hobart took advantage of the grants with its Fred Rose and Pavese parks. She said the city would need to apply by Sept. 28 for the next round of grants.
Hevel asked if the funds could be used for purposes such as finding the source of pollution at Lake George or planting more trees at Veterans Park.
Byrne said the grant would not pay for the Lake George project, but added it could be done for free through another source. Mendoza said he could help shape ideas put out by the Park Board to make them eligible for funding, such as developing a plan that incorporates native species at Veterans Park.