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Residents Act to Keep Park Out of Private Hands

September 8, 2009 by   - () Leave a Comment

About 16 people showed up at at the Hobart, Ind., city hall last week after learning that private investors had approached the city about leasing the 33-acre Robinson Lake Park from the city and turning it into a private RV park.

“There’s been no formal offer. Everything is still in the preliminary stage,” Mayor Brian Snedecor said. “However, the city is willing to look at any plan.”

Hobart resident Larry Brown and four business partners are exploring the idea of leasing the park, located between Interstate 65 and Liverpool Road north of the county’s portion of the Oak Savannah Trail, according to the Gary Post-Tribune.

Brown, who still needs to secure financing for his idea, said an RV park will bring tourism dollars to the city.

Brown’s proposal calls for Robinson Lake Park to be connected to the 40 areas that now house the shuttered St. Sava Serbian Hall on West 49th Street.

Combining the properties, he said, will make room for an upscale park where recreational vehicle drivers can take rest breaks.

The city closed the park four years ago, after banning swimming because it was not cost-effective to staff it with lifeguards.

Since then, the park’s gate has been closed. But people often jog around and fish at the lake anyway.

Although the plan for the RV park has not been fully developed, it is already drawing criticism from a local environmental group.

Jennifer Woronecki, secretary for the Sierra Club Dunelands Group, said the proposal to turn a public green space into a private RV park is shortsighted.

“It’s not environmentally sound and it’s not unique,” Hobart resident Woronecki said in a prepared statement.

“What we need is something that is going to capture the region’s imagination — an environmental learning space, a small green hotel, an eco-meeting area where those concerned about our communities and our planet can gather and exchange ideas,” she said. “We need a park that is accessible to the entire public not just the minute percentage that own RVs.”

Woronecki said her group would to like see the St. Sava property returned to a natural state and placed under the control of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.

Chip Greenberg said he’d love to incorporate Woronecki’s ideas into the RV park along with a youth center so kids can get a better understanding of mind and body through sports and the outdoors.

Greenberg represents the city of Hobart on the board of directors of the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority. He has been meeting with Brown to discuss the impact an RV park and youth center might have on the region and area tourism.

Snedecor, meanwhile, says he’s not comfortable keeping Robinson Lake as it is because it creates a liability for the city.

“So, if some attractive offers come to the city, it’s our obligation to look at them,” he said.

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