The long, ongoing
effort to construct an education center at Sunset Hill Farm made progress on
Thursday as the Porter County Park Board agreed 5-0 to accept a revised
design for the building.
Varvek rolled out a revised floor plan that included a large assembly space
that would accommodate up to 160 people for community events and youth
He gave the board
several options for the kitchen on the end of the assembly room suggesting
an island be put in absorbing areas originally planned for storage. The
storage areas could be moved across the hall to maximize use of the kitchen
so it could be used for catering, he said. A stove has been included, which
the Parks Department or Extension Office could use for their programming.
The exterior of the
assembly room and kitchen will be part of the “barn” structure of the
building, as the project had originally been conceived as “Raise the Barn”
intended for educational programming at the former farm.
The center would
have two points of entry separated by a main lobby. The entryways could have
a vestibule with 24-hour restrooms for park users, although the main
building will be locked when not in use.
On the other side
of the lobby will be at least two classrooms, the main one being a nature
classroom named in the honor of the late educator and former park board
president Art Willing.
Varvek showed two
sets of plans, one with an extra wing for administrative offices and one
That is so there
can be a lower range of costs, giving a better opportunity for the Parks
Department to reach its funding target for construction.
that when a request for bids go out, firms could give alternate bids for the
Superintendent Walter Lenckos said that even without the office wing, there
will be space designated in the main structure for park staff to have an
office. If the extra offices do get added, they could be used to house other
County Government agencies, alleviating crowding in the County
Administration Building in downtown Valparaiso.
Even with less
space, Lenckos said the plans as they are will still meet all of the goals
set out by the board.
several sources of funding will help cover the overall cost. With donations
from the Willing family and the Porter County Parks Foundation, he hopes to
garner additional grants and request support from the County Council.
Sitting in on the
presentation Thursday were County Council members Sylvia Graham, D-at large,
and Mike Jessen, R-4th.
The estimated price
tag, according to Lenckos, would be between $2 million to $3 million.
In terms of growing
services, Lenkcos said that the education center would double the number of
school-aged children in its educational programming and field trips,
expanding to grades 6-8.
“This will really
impact the community to have some high quality events and turn this into the
facility we would all like it to be,” he said.
Varvek also spoke
about the center’s exterior and landscaping, assuring park board members the
building will be “structurally sound.”
Sign-ups for Camp
FUNset will start on Saturday, Feb. 28 at Sunset Hill Farm from 9 a.m. to 12
p.m. Registration will also be available on the Park Department’s website.
Lenckos said that this year they will be adding Fridays to the camp week.
In other business:
announced that crews will begin clearing land for the new trails at Brincka
Cross Gardens County Park in either April or May. A groundbreaking is
expected by the end of summer.
-- Plans are moving
for Aukiki Park in Pleasant Twp. and a rezoning of the 63-acre property is
scheduled for first reading at the next County Commissioners meeting. East
Porter County Schools Superintendent Rod Gardin has voiced support for the
-- The agreement
with John and Mary Hodson of the Kankakee River Historical Society will
continue this year as the parks department has agreed to help with
programming and the Aukiki River Festival in August. In exchange, the parks
department can host field trips at the property along the river.
-- The Duneland
Photo Club which holds its meetings every first Tuesday of the month at the
Sunset Hill Farm will be taking pictures of the different parks properties
and will make them available for the parks department to use.
-- The board
approved to send out a Request for Qualifications for food vendors at Sunset