Culver to the Max

Culver to the Max LogoThursday, July 21st, Culver had their evaluation from the various state agencies on their Stellar Communities application. I have been involved with this project from the beginning and on Thursday I not only served as a golf cart driver, but also as a presenter at a couple of the sites. For those of you that might be interested I thought I might give my impressions of the day and a brief synopsis of what happened.

Council President Ginny Munroe's Introductory Remarks

Council President Ginny Munroe’s Introductory Remarks

Thursday was the culmination a lot of work but it all came together at 9:00 at the Depot in the park. Twenty representatives from OCRA, IHCDA, IAC, INDOT, Serve IN, IOTD, ISDH, and DNR arrived at the Depot along with many of our local regional partners. Representatives from Marshall County, City of Plymouth, Argos, Bourbon, MCEDC and many others showed up to show how important this was not just to Culver but to our surrounding area. Blueprints on each of the seven projects were given to the attendees. These were the boiled down bullet points from the overall investment plan that was submitted last month. Mark Damore Jr. then made introductions and briefly warmed up the crowd before introducing the Town Council President, Ginny Munroe, who gave a speech on what Culver to the Max meant, how it evolved, and a bit of her personal story on coming back to Culver. That was followed by Jonathan Leist giving a very brief synopsis of the projects.

A video had been done showing highlights of the projects as well as interviews of some of the people throughout the town. The video was completed by Big Idea and they did a fabulous job. It struck me as amazing what can be done now with drones which would have cost tens of thousands of dollars in the past and required helicopters, boom cameras, and other significant equipment outlays. I have a feeling that the video was more impactful on locals who could recognize the locations and people than on people from out of town since part of the impact was knowing that it was actually Culver. Jonathan somewhat brought that home at the end when he pointed out that a couple of the shots showing people on water skis doing stunts were actually in the audience.

From there the group broke up and walked through the park down to the beach lodge. We discussed one of the projects which is the trail system as we walked through the park. We also discussed the Stellar Fest event, Lakefest, Farmers Market, and other events which occur in the park on a regular basis. The walk took us down along the lake to the bottom of the beach lodge where we could point out the proposed amphitheater, the concession stand and the lake access amenities. Then from there we went up through the beach lodge showing the changes that would occur as we proceeded to the second floor. On the second floor I gave a brief discussion of Lake Maxinkuckee’s history, the work that had been done to preserve Lake Maxinkuckee through the Lake Maxinkuckee Environmental Fund, and the various studies that had been completed, as well as the wetlands that had been built. Anna Campbell, Culver Park Director, discussed the programming improvements planned for the beach lodge. Steve Parks, beach lodge Architect, discussed the “nuts and bolts” changes planned for the beach lodge. Janet Baker spoke as a local resident on what she perceived as potential for the beach lodge and how it could affect residents and the local community. Amy DeLong, Visitors Center Director, spoke briefly on how that programming at the beach lodge could improve tourism for Culver.

Cavelier Park Presentation Site

Presentation Site for Cavalier Park

From there we proceeded to the golf carts. The golf carts were an interesting and apparently long debated idea the committee came up with. They felt that a golf cart tour was very “Culver” but they were also concerned about breaking the group up and not having a consistent message throughout. As it turned out I felt like I probably made a much more personal connection with the two women that were my charges than I would have otherwise, if it would have been a group bus tour. I felt I was much more able to engage them and direct conversation on projects and press them for questions and answers more than I would have in a group setting. When I asked them about the golf carts they were both excited about the prospect at the beginning and were happy with the results at the end. The only real drawback that I saw from the golf cart portion of the tour was it did take longer to organize people. At times it was somewhat like herding cats to get then back on the carts as we tried to proceed from one site to the next. I have to say though that nothing can beat riding quietly along Academy Road on a golf cart and being able to point out a white tail deer calmly standing in someone’s yard watching us as we go by. That kind of thing makes an impression on someone from the city. (And some people thought the deer should have been removed from the video! Ha!)

All of the golf cart drivers had cheat sheets with high points to talk about. In my case, I used some of these, but since the two women on my cart were from IHCDA, the Indiana Housing & Community Development Authority, they had a lot of questions that related to the Sand Hill Farm housing project and I was able to target a lot of my discussion toward that topic and make the best use of our time together. From the Beach Lodge we went east through along the railroad access through the woods to Academy Road and then down through the main entrance to the Culver Academy around Eppley Auditorium, past the library and down along the lake to a shady area by the Winged Messenger statue. There Don Fox gave some information on the Culver Academies history and Dana Neer spoke about wellness and how that tied into the Trail project. This connected with several people and my charges requested information on the Lake Maxinkuckee Triathlon and talked about coming back!

From there we came back up through campus and along Academy Road and entered the back side of Maple Ridge Subdivision to show the new development. We went out to the edge of hwy 10 & 17 to show where the sidewalk extension would be and the traffic made a good showing for us. We wound back through the subdivision back onto Academy Road and up to the Superintendent’s office parking lot. There we did a presentation on the Sidewalk Project and Cavalier Park. Brandy Poehl, Josh Pretzer and Chuck Kitchel all spoke on various aspects of the those projects and the effects on community.  Brandy spoke about tying together the new businesses on Hwy 10 & 17 and the wellness benefits to her business. Josh discussed the safety issues and the ability to tie the schools together for service projects. Chuck spoke about the organic growth of the Cavalier Park development and the hope that this could become a more formal park space for the town tying together the schools, the retirement home an the park system.

Sand Hill Farm Presentation Site

Sand Hill Farm Presentation Site

After a brief break we headed south through the downtown to show the previous INDOT project to improve the downtown streetscapes. We went through the new parking lot on south Main Street and then up Jefferson Street to the Sand Hill Farm site. At that site, I first spoke about the Jefferson Street Corridor project. I discussed how it was first identified as a entrance for improvement in the Mary Means Study completed by the Second Century Committee in the 90’s. I discussed how the improvements would straighten the road, create an inviting entrance with bike and pedestrian pathways. How it would tie into the Sand Hill Farm Development and how it would connect to Elkay. I also mentioned that it would be our first foray into “complete streets” which could be used as an example for the two additional new roads called for in our Comprehensive Plan.

Sand Hill Layout (Reduced)

Sand Hill Farm Layout

Regarding Sand Hill Farm, Jerry Chavez from MCEDC spoke regarding the economic impact the development would have. He outlined how this started with the announcement that Elkay would be adding 100 jobs to their plant. Jason Huffman from Elkay gave some background on Elkay employees and the impact this would make. Chuck Kitchell and Josh Pretzer spoke about the impact to the two schools. It was unfortunate that the Sand Hill Farm site, being our most important site, was put at the end for impact, but that also meant that it suffered from time constraints. A lot of information had to be compressed into a short time frame there, but it did seem to make an impact.

Overall I think things went well. As I mentioned earlier, I think I made connections. One of my cart mates emailed me later to thank me for the ride. I sent her additional information on the upcoming Lake Maxinkuckee Triathlon. A while back I wrote a post here about Wolf’s Dilemma. I can safely say that last Thursday was one of those days when all of Culver’s various factions came together and no one pushed the button!

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