Where do you put a 40’wide by 125’ long outdoor model train display and
storage building at Sunset Hill Farm County Park?
Given the extent of open space at the park, the task may sound easy but it
proved to be quite the opposite at Thursday’s Porter County Park Board
“It’s hard to visualize with all the slopes, drainage and swales,” said
County Park Board member Craig Kenworthy.
The board was approached in November by the Illiana Garden Railway Society
about the opportunity to host its model railroad and town which it
formally displayed at Samuelson’s Nursery in Washington Twp., which closed
IGRS President David Ransem said the tracks total 1,100 feet in length and
the model town of Franville includes a saw mill, farm, engine supply yard,
baseball diamond and a lake. The Society would operate the scene on
Saturdays May through September. The track is said to be permanent but the
model buildings and trains would be stored during the off season in a 10’
x 20’ storage shed.
The board had questions about where the display would best fit near the
park’s parking areas. At Thursday’s meeting, Parks Superintendent Walter
Lenckos said the County’s GIS Department gave him a way to show a 40’ x
125’ polygon that could stretch and morph on a map.
About every way the board tried to place the rectangle around the parking
lot and maintenance buildings, an obstacle presented itself. The board
wants to be out of the way of where the Education Center is proposed be
built between the parking lot and the existing interpretive building.
Drainage proved to be a challenge in the areas open around the sheds and
“It’s a real soft area there,” said Board President Richard Hudson.
Maintenance worker Jack Kashak said that if it rains for more than a few
days, there will be standing water in those areas.
Other locations were ruled out such as the saw mill, for obvious reasons,
and the area next to the front gate which is needed for the events and
festivals the parks held throughout the year. The pond and prairie areas
are also undergoing restoration.
At the end of the search, board members indicated there might be a chance
to put the display where the animals are now. Lenckos said the department
plans to eventually move the animals east to the field used as a
campground by the Northern Indiana Historical Power Society once a year in
Lenckos also agreed to seek expert advice on modifying the drainage at the
other possible locations.
-- Lenckos said there will be a Master Plan Committee meeting on Monday,
Feb. 13 at 6 p.m. The committee will look at the existing draft. The plan
will talk about the parks’ benchmarks compared to other counties and
create a list of action items for the next five years, he said.
-- Parks Communications Director Darlene Cohn has assisted the Porter
County Parks Foundation with launching a new website at
The site gives details about the Foundation’s past and its future
objectives. Lenckos said the Foundation will also publish its first
newsletter in years.
-- The board agreed to keep the same committees as the previous year.
Those include Land Acquisition and Development, Communications and
Marketing, Sunset Hill Education Center, Sunset Hill Trails Development,
Aukiki Park and Budgets and Personnel.
-- Before the meeting, the Parks Department held a reception for its
volunteers in the rotunda at the County Administration Building. Lenckos
thanked the “hundreds of individuals and groups” that have given their
time and support. “The staff and I wouldn’t be able to do what we do
-- The board approved an amendment to the animals plan at Sunset Hill
Farm. For this year, the parks plan to add three female sheep to the
existing animal assortment.
-- Board member David Canright thanked Porter County Convention,
Recreation and Visitors Commission Board President Mitch Peters for
speaking in support of purchasing additional acreage at Brincka-Cross
Gardens during the public hearing to create a fund for the grant at
Tuesday’s County Commissioner meeting. Peters said the acquisition is
important because parking space is needed at the park.