By Liz Shepherd
WARSAW — The Kosciusko County Convention, Recreation & Visitors Commission (KCCRVC) approved a $30,000 grant toward the installation of an accessible kayak/canoe launch at Winona Lake Limitless Park.
During a March 9 meeting, Holly Hummitch, director of the Winona Lake Parks Department and Senior Center; Joni Truex, county council member and Kiwanis Club of Warsaw member; and Jim Molebash, Kiwanis Club of Warsaw president; requested funding from KCCRVC for the project. WLLP staff and the Kiwanis Club of Warsaw have partnered together for the installation of the kayak/canoe launch.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) kayak/canoe launch will provide barrier-free access to Winona Lake. An adaptive kayak/canoe launch offers a safe and accessible way for adaptive paddlers, those in wheelchairs and those with disabilities to enter and exit a boat more easily.
Installation of a kayak/canoe launch will also potentially expand youth programs and activities at WLLP.
Molebash said he first learned about ADA kayak/canoe launches while on a trip in Michigan.
“I talked with a fellow there, and he says ‘I’m 78 years old,'” said Molebash. “‘I love kayaking, but I can’t do it anymore. I can’t get into the boat.’ With this type of facility, he was able to go there and get back into kayaking, something that he was unable to do in the last few years. I was blown away by that.”
In November 2020, Kiwanis Club of Warsaw approached WLLP about establishing an accessible launch. One of the main phases of the park’s master plan included upgrades to the beach and pier and the installation of an ADA kayak/canoe launch.
Kiwanis Club of Warsaw has made a commitment of $10,000 to the project. Hummitch said a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the ADA kayak/canoe launch will take place in July at Winona Lake’s Fourth of July festival.
“The hope and dream of Kiwanis and the Limitless Park is to bring people to our community, people who have no way to experience life on the lake,” said Truex. “It would draw people from outside of the community because it’s a unique opportunity.”
The group said a $30,000 grant from the commission would go toward the launch’s construction, but that the project is expanding.
Winona Lake Park Board President Christy Myers said establishing the launch would be a great investment for the community.
Mike Hagy, City-County Athletic Complex executive director, also attended the meeting to request $40,000 for capital expenses and $80,000 for operational expenses in 2022.
For capital expenses, Hagy discussed investing in a second field grooming machine for maintenance at the CCAC ballpark.
“We usually use two field groomers,” said Hagy. “That’s pretty essential for us. This one is a little more costly, but in the long run, it benefits us the most, it saves us more money.”
With operational expenses, Hagy said the CCAC typically requests $10,000 per quarter, but is increasing that to $20,000 in order to avoid requesting emergency funding in the last quarter of the year.
“2020 really put a hit on us with COVID-19,” said Hagy. “We’re still trying to climb out of that hole. What I’ve also discovered is there are several small projects that add up. A little extra money coming in from you folks would help us get some of this accomplished.”
KCCRVC Vice-President Mark Skibowski, who sits on the CCAC board, said an increased investment from the commission would really benefit the complex.
“Financially, they need the additional funds to continue to operate,” said Skibowksi.
The requests were approved.
Lake City Skiers Vice-President Chuck McLaughlin also attended the meeting to request two grants. First, the commission approved a $7,703.28 grant to be used toward payments for a loan the club took out to purchase new motors. A request from Lake City Skiers for a $6,500 grant to update the scorers building at the Hidden Lake location was tabled until the commission’s May meeting. The commission requested a full layout for the project be presented at their next meeting for further consideration.
Pierceton Chamber of Commerce President Kelsea DeGaetano requested eight grants, each for $500, for events the town hosts, as well as general advertising. The commission voted to grant the chamber $2,000 to go toward general advertising for Pierceton’s events.
The commission also approved an inter-local agreement for the KCCRVC. This allows for the county auditor’s office to handle secretarial duties for the commission. An amendment to the agreement states that the auditor’s office will be paid $500 annually for material costs.
Also during the meeting, the commission:
- Awarded two $500 grants to Chautauqua Wawasee for marketing their Patriot’s Day and Wawasee Oakwood Fine Arts Festival events.
- Awarded a grant totaling $2,292.96 to the Syracuse-Wawasee Trails Committee for marketing their Tour des Lakes event.
- Heard from Jennifer Carnes, Kosciusko County Convention and Visitors Bureau treasurer, that the CVB has interviewed several candidates for its vacant executive director position. Carnes said CVB staff hope to extend a job offer to a candidate very soon.
The May meeting will take place at 9 a.m. Wednesday, May 11, in the Kosciusko County Courthouse.