Culver park lights, rink may facilitate a ‘winter wonderland’

Culver's park is one step closer to becoming a "winter wonderland" for both locals and visitors, after extensive discussion and decision-making on the part of the parks and recreation board at last Wednesday's monthly meeting.

Discussion began as follow-up to two matters suggested at prior meetings: that of including Christmas lights in the park alongside those installed in the town proper, and of installing a temporary ice skating rink at the site of the basketball courts alongside Lake Shore Drive this winter.

Park superintendent Kelly Young reported she had contacted the out-of-town company hired a few years ago by the town of Culver to install Christmas decorations on the streets, to inquire as to prices on lighting in the park. She said lights and garland could be installed around the gazebo, picnic pavilions, and east end fence at an annual cost of $1,587 per year, with the requirement of a two-year contract.

Audience member Mark Damore Jr. suggested the park work towards creating a "winter wonderland in the park," partly in hopes of creating increasing "buzz" and drawing more visitors to Culver from other communities.

"Everyone knows I want to bring people into town," said Damore, "but what about the kids and couples in town? To me it's stress relief; it makes you smile."

Board member Rhonda Reinhold suggested solar-powered lights could be employed towards lighting the park.

Audience member Tony Sellers, of Sellers Landscaping, distributed a page with photos sampling lighting he said he could install in the park. Noting he walked through the park recently to assess where lights could best be hung, Sellers said trees could also be utilized for lights, which could be placed on a timer.

"People will drive through town (and see the lights)," he suggested. "It will get bigger each year."

Damore also suggested that, if the park hired Sellers, the town would own the Christmas lights as opposed to renting them, and a community member would receive the business. He also suggested a fund-raising campaign for future lights. It was noted Culver could investigate funding for Christmas lighting by a grant from the county Community Foundation.

Asked for a dollar figure by the board, Sellers said he could have all the lights installed by Thanksgiving for a total of $5,000.

Audience member Jean Rakich suggested the park might consider the option of spending less for the out of town light installation, though audience member Sue McInturff pointed out the two-year contract for the out of town-based work would require spending $3,000, "(but) you've got nothing to keep (in terms of lights)."

Audience member Mike Stallings said his company, Mirar Homes, would pay for Sellers to put lights on "Selestine's tree," the large pine near the depot planted to honor late Culver resident Selestine Ware (it had been noted that no organization has yet stepped up to provide lighting for the tree this year). Stallings also said the park could keep the lights Sellers installed on that tree.

"This is our opportunity to show we're serious about making the park a special place," commented Reinhold. "Let's do it."

In the end, the board asked Sellers to provide three different price points for various lighting options, about which it can vote at a special meeting planned for the following week.

At least indirectly related was discussion about a proposed temporary ice skating rink at the park this winter, a request made by several citizens last year.

Young said she's still researching cost options, but one option would run $4,332.21 plus shipping, for a 52 by 80 foot rink. Included would be a surround and ground liner totaling 4,160 square feet, which could be installed on the basketball courts on the west end of the park. The cost of $200 for water to make the ice would be additional, unless the town waived the fee, added Young. It was also noted the board had already budgeted to purchase the rink, which community volunteers have offered to install.

Audience member Jeff Mansfield noted in his other hometown in Illinois, a red light-green light system is in place on the street to notify potential skaters when ice is solid enough to use. If the ice is too "mushy," he said, skates can rip the bottom lining of the rink.

Damore suggested the board and audience "close your eyes and picture our beautiful park lit up (with Christmas lights), with the ice skating rink (visible)," and suggested his own Lakehouse Grille could offer $1 hot chocolates to skaters during skating periods.

The board voted to purchase the rink for installation this winter.
In other discussion, Tim Yuhas updated the board on removal of the public fishing pier west of the town beach, for which he said he's still preparing liability paperwork, a task he said has proven to be "challenging."

Board president Tammy Shaffer said she wanted everyone to know how much time Yuhas has given to the park "without any return. Culver is all about fostering entrepreneurs, and we will give him leeway (in uninstalling the pier)."

Jeff Mansfield, whose offer to volunteer his time and research towards purchase of a computer-based point-of-sale cash register for the park, said he had spoken to Young, town clerk Karen Heim, and all park board members except Leroy Bean, and plans to have a document to the board by its next meeting. He added he hopes the board can look at vendors for the equipment in January.

He also cautioned the board that contracts being let for such equipment now are for April, 2014 delivery, so it's possible the equipment and software might not be available by the time next year's swimming season starts.

Park program director Donna McKee updated the board on future events as well as running down the events which took place over the past summer.

McKee, who started in her position in February, said Dave Heberling was the winner in the park's recent "Million Steps to Success" program.

She also described attendance at the numerous concerts the park sponsored over the summer as ranging from as few as 12 attendees to as many as 150, with an average of around 75 people per concert. She noted she plans to change scheduling for concerts in the park next summer, so they all take place the same day and time, in hopes potential attendees will find it easier to remember.

McKee also said the "movie in the park" during the summer had around 100 people in attendance. Turnout for the park's "craft times" for children has generally been low, she said.

The "No More Excuses" walking club meets Tuesdays and Thursdays, she explained, and is now walking as a group instead of individually.
Between eight and 16 youngsters attend the twice-per-week, free "Dance with Meagan" classes at the beach lodge, said McKee.

The park-sponsored 5k walk and run which took place during Fall Fest drew some 60 participants, she noted, and 24 children attended the park's Oct. 23 Halloween party.

McKee said she's currently planning a Nov. 21 "wine and canvas" event which will take place at the Lakehouse Grille, a Thanksgiving craft event for kids, and possibly a "Santa's mailbox" in Culver, in which children can place letters to Santa which will be answered in person.
There was some discussion as to how the park could improve marketing of its programs and events.

During her superintendent's report, Young asked for direction regarding pruning and removal of several potential "problem" trees in the park, as designated by Culver's tree commission. Tom Kearns and Mike Stallings, of the commission, discussed specifics, noting a professional arborist had highlighted five or six trees in need of removal, which typically costs $250 per tree, though some larger trees could cost significantly more.

The voted to allow the commission to spend $1,500 it had already allotted towards the project, at its discretion.

Young also reported the swimming, courtesy, and boat slip piers in the park had been removed and were wrapped and in place out of the water. Picnic tables and benches will also be removed, though Young agreed with Rakich's suggestion that some tables be left in the park for use when the skating rink is installed.

Shaffer reported she had contacted the adult sponsors of the Culver Youth Community Organization, collaboration between Culver Community High School and Culver Academies students, in hopes that a member or members could serve on a committee to give feedback on desired projects in the park. Both adults are excited, said Shaffer, and hope to have a bit more definition of what the students' roles would be.

Damore, during the audience input portion of the meeting, thanked the board for "being so open (to ideas concerning the park)."

"All of us...want the same thing," he added. "To live in an amazing thank you."