The Porter County
Parks and Recreation Department is considering moving forward with $375,000
for a smaller building or a renovation to offer programming at Sunset Hill
Farm County Park for the time being, until the Raise the Barn education
center can be built.
Park Board member
Craig Kenworthy at Thursday’s meeting said the Parks’ Building Committee met
earlier this week to discuss $375,000 earmarked for a building, $175,000 of
which comes from donations raised by the Porter County Parks Foundation, and
$200,000 from funds granted by the Lake Michigan Coastal Program.
which started a capital campaign more than a decade ago for the Raise the
Barn building, is wanting to see something to provide space for programing
at Sunset Hill Farm after years of waiting for direction or support from the
County Board of Commissioners and County Council and approval of funds for
the proposed $3 million education center, according to Kenworthy.
“What I’ve heard
from the Foundation is they want to help. They see a need and they want to
do this,” Kenworthy said. “There is money there to build a building. Let’s
that County Commissioner Jim Biggs, R-North, has asked the building
committee to put together a “plan of action” of how it plans to build the
building using just the funds on hand. He also said there is a general
contractor who is willing to assist with plans.
the new building could allow for more bathrooms at the park, Kenworthy said,
which have been needed for a while.
Kenworthy asked his
fellow board members if they would approve a motion for the committee to
proceed, but a few said they were concerned that this could mean turning
away from the larger Raise the Barn facility, which they feel would greatly
benefit the parks system and the community.
“I’m a little
confused. Is this a building in place of what we have had plans drawn for?”
board member Tom Schnabel asked Kenworthy.
“I think it’s a
building to start, accepting that we can afford to do it,” Kenworthy
Schnabel said he’s
unsure about the concept as he is “not willing to give up the idea of having
a facility where people rolling in” will be wowed.
“I don’t want to
put up junk or something that is going to look like junk in ten years,” he
Board member David
Canright said he would vote in favor of a motion for the building committee
to move forward as long as it’s not seen as a vote to give up on the Raise
the Barn center. He also questioned Biggs’ “micro-managing” the building
committee, as Biggs was one of the Council members who stymied the Parks
Department’s request for $1.5 million to begin construction on Raise the
Barn in 2013.
Canright said there
other county officials who can support it for many reasons. “This activity
center would be centrally located and would serve the entire county. I think
we should be very careful before we just throw it out,” he said.
Annetta Jones made a motion to proceed with looking at options using the
$375,000. She said that “it could be interesting” to see what can be done
with that budget and a smaller scale building could still grow programming
and reinforce the need for the education center with the plans that have
been in place for a long time.
Rich Hudson said he agrees.
The board voted 5-0
on Jones’ motion. Absent from the meeting was board member Drew Armstrong.
Day of Caring 2017
Sunset Hill Farm
has been selected again as one of the sites to receive help from volunteers
in the United Way of Porter County’s Day of Caring, which will be Friday,
Aug. 4 this year, Parks Superintendent Walter Lenckos said.
The volunteers will
clean up trails and will continue work in the Dino Dig area of the natural
playground and the pond/prairie restoration. The latter two projects have
received grants from ArcelorMittal and NIPSCO, Lenckos said.
Lenckos said there
are remaining volunteer spots if anyone is interested and registration must
be done through the United Way. The day starts with a breakfast at 8:30 a.m.
and work will finish around noon.
More visitors have
been seen walking, fishing and exploring the passive areas of Brookdale Park
at 919 North CR 50W in Liberty Twp.
“Every single day
there four or five cars out there,” Lenckos told the board.
The Park Board
discussed improving areas around the pond last month with funds from the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Indiana Department of Natural Resources
to plant natural species and pollinating plants this fall.
Director Darlene Cohn recently sent to local media a press release inviting
residents to come explore Brookdale and its programming.
congratulated the new slate of officers for the Porter County Parks
Foundation which includes a new president, Brian Waisanen. Lenckos said
Waisanen told him he intends to support the Park Department’s vision and
programming laid out in the Master Plan.
Other PCPF officers
are Tim Cole as vice-president, Harold Gatlin as treasurer and Tom Sanders
The second annual
Prairie Magic Music Festival at Sunset Hill Farm, on Saturday, Aug. 12, will
donate half its proceeds to the PCPF, Lenckos said, while the other half
will go to the Blues Project which teaches local kids about African American
blues music and gives them a chance to perform it.
Tickets for the
event will be $15 for general admission and $10 for those with a student ID.
Children 12 and under will be admitted at no charge.