Residents fight sale of piece of Merrillville park
By Karen Caffarini Post-Tribune correspondent October 15, 2013 10:54PM
Updated: November 17, 2013 10:05AM
MERRILLVILLE — The Plan Commission on Tuesday tabled action needed for the town to sell a portion of Stefek Park after several residents voiced opposition to both the sale and to changes already made at the neighborhood park.
“Stefek Park is the best thing in that community. I don’t want to see it lessened. Everyone in the neighborhood loves that park,” said Chuck Maclin, one of about five residents living near the park who spoke and about 10 residents who attended the meeting, all of whom opposed the proposal.
A meeting will be called for next month between residents and Council President Carol Miano, D-3rd, whose ward Stefek Park is in, before the Plan Commission and Town Council act on the matter.
The town is seeking subdivision approval for two residential lots on almost 3 acres in Stefek Park, at about 815 W. 70th Place, and for two commercial lots on 2.3 acres in the new Union Park, at 7200 Broadway. Both parcels would be placed for sale along with other park property.
Money generated from the sale will go into the general parks budget.
Council members said there has been a lot of vandalism, instances of older kids shutting out younger kids, possible drug deals taking place and other problems at Stefek Park. They also have said the portion being sold is little used.
The park’s shelter has been removed and plans are to remove the baseball diamond.
“There was a lot of damage there after the Fourth of July from kids lighting fireworks. The park was a wreck. And I’m told this is happening not from Turkey Creek residents, but from others,” Plan Commission member Brian Dering said.
Michelle Johnson said she lives directly across the street from the park and while there have been some problems on and off through the 13 years she’s resided there, none have been of any magnitude.
“This is one park that doesn’t have to get smaller. You can’t let the bad people take away what the good people want,” Johnson said.
“The park is an asset to the community. The park makes the neighborhood a neighborhood,” she said.
Both Johnson and neighbor Dee Evans Hein pointed out that there is a problem with childhood obesity in the country, yet the town wants to take away a place for children to play.
Evans Hein also said she was opposed to the town moving the park equipment to a location next to the bike trail, which she said is too accessible to young children, creating a dangerous situation, and to the baseball diamond being removed.
“This is one of only a few parks where kids can play and practice and have a pickup game,” she said.
There was no opposition to the subdivision and sale of the Union Park property, which is basically a dilapidated house and the property it sits on.
The house will have to be removed by the buyer.
Jim Strezovski, who used to own the deli next to the property, said he plans to bid on the park property and, if successful, will tear down the house and clear all the vegetation. He said he would like to use some of the land for parking for the garage he also owns behind the former deli.