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
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
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
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.
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.
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
-- 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.