While the COVID-19 pandemic has challenged daily operations, the La Porte Parks and Recreation Department has gone above and beyond to ensure that La Porte citizens have a place to enjoy everything the city has to offer.
“The pandemic has been a challenge for parks and recreational activities, but also has created new opportunities,” said Mark Schreiber, Superintendent of the La Porte Parks and Recreation Department. “With travel limited, many residents have rediscovered the parks and lakes this year. Our goal is to make repeat visitors of these new guests.”
Despite the obstacles the pandemic put up this year, Schreiber and his team have been hard at work completing major park projects and renovations. Here’s an update on what La Porte residents can find at their favorite outdoor areas and what to expect later this year.
Unity Park, gifted to the city in 2016 by the Unity Foundation of La Porte County, opened a new mini splash pad in August. It was donated by a generous anonymous philanthropist and is roughly the same size and design of Plaza 618’s water feature in downtown La Porte. Families can now enjoy the splash pad while the weather is still warm in one of La Porte’s scenic parks.
The Clear Lake boardwalk, funded by the Healthcare Foundation of La Porte, is expected to complete construction this fall. It not only will link up with Chessie Trail and the trail around the lake, it will also provide a place for fishing and nature watching for nature enthusiasts. The boardwalk will expand the city’s trail system, helping the city be more bicycle and pedestrian friendly.
The Healthcare Foundation of La Porte is also funding the Stone Lake Shoreline Improvement Project. The multiuse trail began construction in late summer and is scheduled for completion by mid-October. Starting at the Stone Lake beach house, the trail will run along Lakeshore Drive and end at Craven Pond. Future improvements to the trail include extending it to Soldiers Memorial Park.
“The goal of the design was to protect, enhance and naturalize the shoreline; increase recreational access and opportunities; and improve safety for residents and visitors to the park,” Schreiber said. “The current project also includes several ‘nodes,’ such as overlooks with benches and a fishing pier.”
City residents can now enjoy new and improved play structures around the city. The La Porte Park Foundation funded a new play structure in Clarke Park and a swing structure in Hastings Park. The La Porte Urban Enterprise Association donated funds for another play structure in Warsaw Park.
“With these new additions, the Park Department has updated 12 playgrounds over the past six years, including the renovation of our community-built playground, Fort La Play Porte, in 2019, and remains on track to have all playgrounds updated within the next couple years,” Schreiber said.
Soldiers Memorial Park next to Stone Lake Beach will be getting a new kayak launch funded by the Healthcare Foundation of La Porte. Construction is expected to begin in the fall and will be open by spring. A major development is the project’s ADA compliance, making the launch and kayaking accessible for everyone. It will also see the installation of storage lockers and plans to include kayak rentals.
The Dennis F. Smith Amphitheater renovation began this spring and the construction of a new concession/restroom facility was completed in the summer. The department is continuing to work on dressing rooms and the plaza space dedicated to Bill and Kitty Wolf, founders of the Arts in the Park Summer Concert Series. The amphitheater will be getting a new paint job and new lighting and sound in the coming year.
The department hopes to bring back all programs soon but is excited to deliver a space for health and wellness with its tennis programs. The new initiative to up tennis participation in the community involves renovating the Bill Reed Tennis Complex in Kesling Park.
“The courts are worn and cracked and on the verge of presenting a safety risk to players,” Schreiber said.
The Rumely Park courts are being renovated and the department is constructing a new court in Allesee park to encourage residents to play tennis. The renovations to the courts will include adding courts for pickleball, either as shared or separate courts. These projects are being funded by the Healthcare Foundation of La Porte, the La Porte Park Foundation, the Ken Moryl Family, and crowdfunding campaigns. You can donate online here: www.patronicity.com/laportetennis.
The Summer Playground Program, which provides free activities for children ages 5-12 through the summer months, takes place in both Rumely and Allesee Parks and allows the program to introduce tennis in those neighborhoods during a very difficult time.
“While we had to cancel or postpone some programs, we were fortunate to keep many activities going through the pandemic,” Schreiber said. “We were able to offer youth baseball and softball by adopting some COVID-19 protocols, such as social distancing on the benches, sanitizing gear and such. Obviously, we are hoping to get back to offering all of our programs, but the lessons learned during this time will benefit us in the future.”
With the challenges 2020 has brought our communities, the La Porte Parks and Recreation Department is excited to bring about positive change to the city.
“We’re excited to launch new recreational opportunities and develop new amenities and infrastructure in the coming years. We have some very exciting ideas in our master plans to improve the quality of life and health and wellness of our residents.”
To learn more about the La Porte Parks and Recreation department and their parks and programs, visit their website here.