Chesterton Tribune



County parks win $300k from Indiana Bicentennial Trust for land purchase

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Porter County Parks Superintendent Walter Lenckos and parks supporter Charlotte Read announced during Thursday’s County Parks Board meeting that the Indiana Bicentennial Trust has awarded the County Parks Department $300,000 toward acquiring 137 acres of additional park land in Pine Twp.

The prospective acquisition is located on Old Chicago Rd. near the corner of CR 500 East, immediately north of I-94, and contains wetlands and woodlands along with some farm ground. Lenckos in August said preliminary discussions began with the property owner who was interested in the land being preserved as a park.

The $300,000 won’t cover the entire cost and the department is currently seeking other funding opportunities to make the full purchase, Lenckos said, but nonetheless “it’s very, very good news.”

BNT also awarded funds this week to local groups such as the Shirley Heinze Land Trust, the Portage Parks Department, the City of Gary and others. A total of more than $1 million will be coming to the Northwest Indiana region from BNT, Lenckos said.

Read, who is on the BNT project committee, said there will be more money available for grants this upcoming year.

Lenckos mentioned another project for which the department is seeking funding from a state entity. An application has been submitted to the Northwest Indiana Redevelopment Authority for potential funding opportunities with the Raise the Barn project at Sunset Hill Farm.

The department is also applying for funds from Indiana American Water which is offering grants to organizations looking to build natural playgrounds with a water feature. Lenckos said the proposed Children’s Playground and Garden at Sunset Hill Farm fits the criteria.

At Sunset Hill Farm

Meanwhile, more bits of good news were shared about Sunset Hill Farm Park.

Lenckos told the board that the non-profit Porter County Parks Foundation received a grant of $20,000 through Arcelor-Mittal that will be used to build educational docks along the pond and prairie area currently being restored. Lenckos said he has been in discussions with the Porter County Career and Technical Center for its building trades class to construct the docks.

Arcelor-Mittal has been generous to the parks department a few times this past year, Lenckos said, giving grants for the pond restoration and for educational programming.

Seeding for the prairie restoration has officially started as of this week, Lenckos said, and construction on the docks is expected to be started at some point next year.

Meanwhile, the Vale of Paradise Garden Club has taken the initiative of finding a carver to make designs out of one of the older, giant trees at Sunset Hill Farm that fell in a storm earlier this year. The design will commemorate the legacy of Sunset Hill’s original resident Col. Robert Murray.

Down south

Also on Thursday, the board voted unanimously to throw their support behind the Northwest Indiana Paddling Association’s petition to the National Park Service to declare the Kankakee River a national water trail.

Earning the title would create more recreational and tourism opportunities locally, Lenckos said, and bring more attention to the County Parks System.

The County Parks recently began a partnership with the Kankakee River Historical Society and is in the process of planning educational programming near the historic Collier Lodge.

Regarding the Aukiki Park planned just north of Kouts, Lenckos said he met with the Kouts Town Council and about two dozen neighbors. The rezoning recommended by the Plan Commission last month met with some opposition but progress was made at the town council meeting, Lenckos said.

Winter Lights

Mother Nature “threw a curve ball” with a dash of cold, wet weather, but the annual Winter Lights Festival got off the ground Nov. 22 at Sunset Hill Farm.

The parks department counted over 550 paying cars passing through the gates to see Santa, fireworks, and over 100 different light displays.

Lenckos gave special mention to park maintenance worker Jack Kashak for putting in extra hours meticulously inspecting each display, making sure each light is working.

“There are literally thousands of families in our community that get to have a good time because of Jack,” Lenckos said.

The festival’s 100-plus volunteers also earned Lenckos’ gratitude.

The Winter Lights displays can be seen each Thursday through Sunday from dusk until 9:30 p.m. and every night the week between Christmas and New Year’s.

Attorney contract

Also, the board voted 5-0 to retain its attorney David Hollenbeck for next year at a contracted amount of $11,665, the same as this year.

Absent from the meeting was board member Craig Kenworthy.

The board also voted to extend the current lease with the Northern Indiana Historic Power Association for three months in anticipation of a new lease currently being drafted.


Posted 12/5/2014






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