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.
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
Read, who is on the
BNT project committee, said there will be more money available for grants
this upcoming year.
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
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.
been generous to the parks department a few times this past year, Lenckos
said, giving grants for the pond restoration and for educational
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
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.
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
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.
“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.
department counted over 550 paying cars passing through the gates to see
Santa, fireworks, and over 100 different light displays.
special mention to park maintenance worker Jack Kashak for putting in extra
hours meticulously inspecting each display, making sure each light is
literally thousands of families in our community that get to have a good
time because of Jack,” Lenckos said.
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.
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