Chesterton Tribune



County parks could get more land in Pine Township; MOU approved for Kankakee River site

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The Porter County Parks system continues to grow.

At Thursday’s Park Board meeting, Superintendent Walter Lenckos said preliminary discussions have begun with a property owner in Pine Twp. for the potential acquisition of 137 acres at the corner of Old Chicago Road and CR 500E, immediately north of I-94.

The parks’ Land Acquisition and Development Committee will meet this month with Parks Planner Ray Joseph to see if the parcel meets the criteria of the department’s land acquisition checklist. Attractive features include a variety of wetlands and woodlands and the property is in proximity to the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.

Lenckos said the owner is “very eager” to work with the parks on a sale. The department is looking to purchase the property at or below the market value.

In another matter, the process of acquiring another 150 or so acres at the opposite side of the county advanced as the park board voted unanimously in favor of a memorandum of understanding with John and Mary Hodson, of the Kankakee Valley Historical Society.

In April, the Hodsons spoke to the board saying they were looking to donate their property to the County Parks Department in the future. The parcel is just east of Baums Bridge and south of County Road 1050 South, along the Kankakee River. Lenckos said the parks department would preserve the land as well as the historic buildings on it.

The MOU is a stepping stone toward a long-term agreement, Lenckos said, and in it the parks department agrees to provide portable restrooms and create marketing brochures for the Historical Society’s Aukiki River Festival which will take place later this month. The Parks Department will be identified as an event sponsor.

Lenckos said the printing would be at nearly no cost to the department since it can utilize the County print shop.

For the parks’ benefit, Hodson agrees to give access to property and Lenckos said he is looking to start a curriculum for school field trips beginning next spring.

“There is an awful lot of history in the south part of the county where people can come and recreate and learn,” Lenckos said.

Voting in favor of the MOU were board members President Richard Hudson, Annetta Jones, David Canright, Craig Kenworthy and Tom Schnabel. Absent from the meeting was Erik Kozuszek.

Ruth Jarnecke recognized

Also on Thursday, the board voted 5-0 on a resolution to publicly “commend, acknowledge, and applaud” retired park board member Ruth Jarnecke’s dedicated service.

Jarnecke joined the board in 2006 and resigned this past February.

The board also voted to purchase a plaque recognizing Jarnecke’s and her late husband Jack’s $62,000 contribution to the new park maintenance building. Porter County Parks Foundation President David Yeager and board attorney David Hollenbeck will work on the language for the plaque.

Community celebrates 80 years of Sunset Hill

In the monthly staff report, Lenckos lauded his staff and members of the Northern Indiana Historical Power Association (NIHPA) on their efforts toward making the 80th anniversary celebration of Sunset Hill Farm a successful one.

The event on July 26 saw generations of families of supporters and long-time advocates.

“It was a ton of fun,” Lenckos said.

Park Manager Matt Howton gathered together relics for a “museum” that Lenckos said could be a great way to partner with NIHPA in the long term. Visitors gave good marks on how well the history was displayed.

The museum, or “barn-seum” could become a permanent feature at the park.

Lenckos said that given the number of supporters who turned out for the anniversary, it would be a good opportunity to rekindle conversations with the County Commissioners and Council about providing funding for the proposed education center, also known as Raise-the-Barn.

The Pond and Prairie Restoration at Sunset Hill has also been going well and it will be shown to the Northern District of Indiana Parks and Recreation Association who will hold their meeting at the park next Wednesday.

Lenckos said the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelly Foundation has awarded a matching $10,000 challenge grant through the Porter County Parks Foundation for the Pond and Prairie Restoration, which is fortuitous for the Parks Department since the Donnelly Foundation rarely funds public agencies.

In other grant news, Lenckos said the parks is working on an application for a $150,000 grant for the Children’s Garden and Playground at Sunset Hill.

Other business:

-- Kenworthy proposed points for the board to consider for the animal farm program at Sunset Hill Farm, such as monitoring what breeds of animal to be accepted, what will be done about breeding, where the animals will be housed and qualifications for a director. Canright and Schnabel said Kenworthy’s suggestions should be given to the Animal Farm committee and the committee should bring a formal policy proposal to the park board at a future meeting.

-- The board authorized Hollenbeck to issue a request for qualifications be sent out to seek a vendor to sell food during cross country meets and other events at Sunset Hill.

-- The Porter County Parks Foundation reported it has a formal commitment from Purdue North Central for students to use the proposed bird sanctuary south of Chesterton for educational purposes once it is developed. Yeager said PNC has agreed to assist the Foundation in applying for grants.




Posted 8/8/2014




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