Chesterton Tribune



County Park Board meets Sunset Hill Colonels, hears proposal for garden railway

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As hordes of Chicago Cubs fans celebrated sweet victory on Thursday bringing home a World Series win, the Sunset Hill Colonels vintage baseball team set its sights on bringing the love of the game to Porter County Parks System next year.

County Parks Superintendent Walter Lenckos introduced six “Colonels” to the County Parks and Recreation Board at its meeting last night as being able to play “a rough and tumble” game of baseball with the same rules that were made in the 1850s, when uncivil language, spitting, berating the umpire or charging the pitcher were prohibited. Perpetrators would be fined 25 cents on the spot.

The Colonels, who have been playing as a team for three years now, “capture the essence” of what has been Sunset Hill Farm for the past three or four generations, said Lenckos, who is one of the team members. The season runs from about May to September, playing other vintage teams throughout the Great Lakes region.

Team captain Mitch Peters said the main idea behind the Colonels is to promote and support the County Park system.

“We want to bring people out to the park. That’s our ultimate goal,” Peters said.

“It’s just really good family entertainment,” Lenckos added.

The first home game next year will be on May 20 during the Parks’ annual Spring Out to Sunset event when the Colonels will play against the Deep River Grinders.

More information about the Sunset Colonels can be found on the team’s Facebook page and Lenckos said more promotional material will be prepared for next season.

New team members are always welcome, Lenckos said, and anyone interested can go to to learn how to join.

Model train set at Sunset?

While baseball enthusiasts can check out the Colonels, another hobby may be coming to Sunset Hill Farm -- model trains.

The Park Board heard a request from the Illiana Garden Railway Society, which is looking for a new home after Samuelson’s Nursery on Ind. 2 near Washington Twp. High School closed this year.

IGRS President David Ransem said the train set was started in 2003 at Samuelson’s Nursery. The group has occasionally shown their display at Sunset Hill Farm with the help of the Northern Indiana Historical Power Association.

“We are looking for a new home. The people out at Sunset Hill were always great. They were happy to have us,” said Ransem.

The display would be 80’ by 20’, or 120’ by 40’ when including the walking space, said Ransem, and would be the same layout as it was at Samuelson’s, with nearly 1,100 feet of track. There would be six operated lines that would course around a model town (named Franville after Fran Samuelson), with a saw mill, a farm, spring rapids, a lake, a baseball diamond, an engine supply yard and oil storage facility.

Ransem said the IGRS would have its operating hours from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays running May through September. Two Children Days would be planned featuring Thomas the Tank Engine.

A storage shed will hold the model buildings in the months the display is not in operation, but the track itself would stay out all year, Ransem said. The operation would require 15 to 30 parking spaces, a meeting place, restrooms and a water line to fill the pond.

Lenckos and Park Board President Rich Hudson said the park has what IGRS needs but the question is where in the park it should be located. Ransem said when visiting it had been located near NIHPA’s storage shed, south of the chicken coop. Lenckos said that area does flood at times.

Park board members discussed a few other options around the sheds and will continue to work to determine a spot that could work.

IGRS Treasurer Owen Todd said the hope is to have the railroad display in by next summer.

Lenckos said he believes the display “fits in well” with the purpose of Sunset Hill in that it provides something for families to enjoy.

Land donation considered

Later, Lenckos mentioned that the Parks’ Land Acquisition and Development Committee was approached with a possible offer by a land owner willing to donate a one-third acre parcel on Derby Ave. near Beverly Shores.

Board member Craig Kenworthy said the owner, a Boca Rotan, Fla. resident, is looking to donate to a government entity. It is an undeveloped wooded area but the Parks Department could eventually sell it and “put the money into (the Parks’) coffers.”

Board member David Canright said he is familiar with the location and the parcel is “probably not buildable without variances.” Hudson said he was in favor of accepting the donation and will direct board attorney David Hollenbeck to make sure the taxes are paid on the property and the park board has the proper insurance.

In other business:

-- The Park Department will be a recipient this year of the Shirley Heinze Land Trust’s Bringing Nature Home award for the ongoing restoration of the pond and prairie at Sunset Hill. Lenckos said at least 10 different entities have been involved in the private-public partnership. The award will be presented Friday at The Spa in Porter.

-- Surveys for the Parks’ Master Plan update have been mailed out to 5,000 randomly selected homes in Porter County. Those who return them by Nov. 17 will earn a free pass to the annual Winter Lights Festival, Lenckos said. The festival will be on Saturday, Nov. 18 at Sunset Hill Farm and the official host this year is the Porter County Parks Foundation.

-- Hudson said the Foundation along with NIHPA have agreed to work together on refurbishing the former superintendent resident at Sunset Hill from a structural and a use standpoint.

-- Contracts for Rhoda Farms and Otis Valley Farms to rent farmland owned by the Parks Department were extended by the board.

-- The board voted 5-0 to accept a new lease agreement with NIHPA, allowing them to use the buildings and grounds for its events. A term was added that will allow NIHPA to have shows for the next five-years which it said will aid them in getting sponsorships. Absent from the vote was board member Tom Schnabel.



Posted 11/4/2016





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