Chesterton Tribune



County Parks to explore scaling back proposed Sunset Hill activity center

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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.

The Foundation, 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 move forward.”

Kenworthy mentioned 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.

Besides activities, 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 replied.

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 said.

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.

Board member 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.

Board president 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.

Parks Communication Director Darlene Cohn recently sent to local media a press release inviting residents to come explore Brookdale and its programming.

Parks Foundation leadership

Lenckos 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 as secretary.

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.


Posted 7/7/2017





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