By Lasca Randels
WARSAW — Warsaw City Planner Justin Taylor broached an idea to connect trail systems in the county at the Kosciusko County Convention, Recreation & Visitor Commission meeting Wednesday, July 14.
But to do so, they would need to have a county parks system.
Taylor requested a favorable recommendation from the KCCRVC to the Kosciusko County Commissioners for the development of a county parks department. He pointed to the need to “expand our focus” and look into working with other communities, such as Syracuse and North Webster, to connect trail systems.
Not having a county parks department has potentially cost the county millions of dollars in state and federal funding, Taylor said, because the lack of ability to maintain county trails is often a deal-breaker when it comes to regional trail system grants.
Commission member Mark Skibowski asked what the cost would be to the county.
“I think looking at the bottom line would be kind of a mistake in this case because there are so many other aspects related to tourism,” Taylor replied. “It can be whatever the commissioners are comfortable with, but I think it’s something that long-range we have to have a vision for the trail system.”
Commission Secretary Jo Paczkowski inquired whether any grants allocate money for maintenance, with Taylor responding they typically do not.
Taylor agreed to look into the average cost of maintenance per mile in order to get a general idea of the cost the county would be looking at.
“We’ll do what we can to help you out,” said KCCRVC President Tammy Kratzer.
In a related matter, Sally Hogan, representing the Kosciusko County Historical Society, said KCHS would like to donate the Old Chinworth Bridge Park to the county.
“The Historical Society does own and operate Chinworth Bridge Park, so we think that would be an excellent first park for the county,” Hogan said.
The property is located at 3495 W. Old Rd 30, Warsaw. Hogan said KCHS owns and maintains a strip of land there amounting to around 6/10 of an acre.
“That is the trailhead to the Greenway Project,” Hogan said. “The bridge itself, the commissioners own. We rent it for $1 a year and we have a 99-year lease.”
Taylor said the driving force behind the formation of a county parks department should be “the opportunity to acquire a great little park at the Chinworth Bridge Trailhead and the potential to help bring in millions of state and federal funds for trails to our community.”
The commission voted to move forward with the process of transfer of ownership of Chinworth Bridge Park.
In another matter, City-County Athletic Complex Executive Director Karl Swihart spoke about a potential merger between CCAC and the county YMCA.
Swihart said an indoor facility at CCAC would generate approximately $16,000 in profit per month on top of loan payments.
“But do I think we can acquire that on our own with grants and support from the community? I really don’t. I think the only way to do that would be to merge with the YMCA where they could potentially help us with that project,” Swihart said.
One area of concern regarding the potential merger is that Swihart wants assurance that CCAC will continue being operated in the way it was intended.
Swihart said he thinks it would be a win-win for everybody if the commissioners were to establish a county parks department.
“If we were potentially to fall under the county park system and get some funding for some more staff, we’d generate a lot of revenue,” Swihart said.
Commission members agreed that CCAC has a big impact on tourism.
CCAC’s deadline to respond to the potential merger proposal is Sept. 30.
Commission members John Hall and Ron Robinson were sworn in. Both have participated in meetings this year but were not officially sworn in until Wednesday.
A motion by Paczkowski recommending that all actions performed by Hall and Robinson this year prior to the official swearing-in be ratified was approved.
In other news:
- Jennifer Carnes, a board member for the Kosciusko County Visitors Bureau, provided an update regarding leisure/travel expectations following the pandemic.
- The next regular meeting will be 9 a.m. Sept. 8.