Chesterton Tribune



Ducks, turkeys and rabbits coming to Sunset Hill Farm Park

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The barnyard at Sunset Hill Farm County Park will be getting a few new residents this year.

The Porter County Park Board on Thursday voted 6-0 in favor of a new collection plan by the farm animal committee to purchase ducks, turkeys and rabbits.

All of which fit the constraints of the current facilities, Parks Superintendent Walter Lenckos said. The parks will not however be getting swans this year as originally planned, he said.

Board member Craig Kenworthy said he felt the committee had “done a stellar presentation” on the new policy to the board.

The farm animal committee includes veterinarian Larry McAffee, Washington Park Zoo Director Jamie Huss, associates of the Porter County Animal Shelter Toni Bianchi and Kate Vanderlin, horse specialist Kathy Sutton, and career farmer Roy Wilson. No one from the committee was present at Thursday’s meeting.

Kenworthy and board member George “Drew” Armstrong said they know the animal farm program had experienced problems in the past. The park faced criticism during last fall’s budget hearing from former County Council member Jim Polarek for housing a Holstein steer that had an ailment causing it to limp and which eventually died.

The County Council voted 4-3 to keep the animal program and allotted $10,000 for the program in 2015.

“We’ve learned from the past and are preparing for the future,” Armstrong said

Kenworthy said he’d prefer to see animals “in the prime of their lives, not in the downturn” and that the animals should be taken to market at the end of their lives.

“In agriculture, 90 percent of the time the animal ends up on someone’s plate,” he said.

The farm presently has chickens and two ponies, Lenckos said, which have been popular in children’s educational programs.

Split vote

Meanwhile, the board discussed the potential of housing a staff member or someone from the Indiana Dunes State Park or Dunes National Lakeshore in two homesites within the new expansion for Brincka-Cross Gardens. Also included in the proposal was putting a park staff member in a park-owned house at the campground entrance to Sunset Hill Park on 700N.

The park department has previously allowed park workers to reside in its residences in park units including Brookdale and Sunset Hill Farm in Liberty Township.

Lenckos said it was brought up in a master planning session that the parks could offer the residence to an employee from the state or national park who would in return assist with nature programs.

Kenworthy said he had his concerns that offering a residence in addition to a salary to park staff would cause problems and member Annetta Jones said the properties could be leased for rent.

Armstrong said he felt putting someone in the houses would be setting precedent.

Board member David Canright disagreed, saying it won’t be a precedent because the parks department has had employees reside on property before. “We’ve been doing this for a long time,” he said.

The arrangement would only be for this year and Canright said board members could make a change after that if they feel the need to.

A vote of 4-2 was made in favor of Lenckos discussing the matter with the state and national parks. Dissenting were Kenworthy and Jones. In favor were Canright, Armstrong, member Tom Schnabel and board president Rich Hudson.

In other business Thursday:

-- Lenckos said one-third of registrations for Camp FUNset filled up on the first day of sign-ups, and half were new families. The camp will now include Fridays in its schedule, which has generated a positive response, he said. “This will allow for field trips and overnights. It’s going to be a great time this summer.”

-- The board received $35,640 its annual share of the venue funds from the County Tourism Bureau. Lenckos said he plans to collaborate with two other venues -- Expo Center and the Memorial Opera House -- on new programming.

-- The board voted 6-0 to proceed with soil bore testing at Aukiki Park, to be done by K + S Engineering for $6,200.

-- The Porter County Parks Foundation presented the board with its proposed budget for the year. The Foundation wishes to put $25,000 toward the purchase of a new lighted sign for Sunset Hill Farm on the corner of U.S. 6 and Meridian Rd., which would replace the current wooden sign, $50,000 toward a barn and developing a pasture at Sunset Hill Farm for the farm animal programs, $2,000 toward newsletters supporting Sunset Hill Farm projects and the proposed migratory bird sanctuary, and $300 for a plaque honoring Jack and Ruth Jarnecke.

-- Jim Sweeney of the Izaak Walton League Porter County Chapter said the public is invited to a Family Nature Night, which begins around 6 p.m. at Brummitt Elementary School on Tuesday, March 10. He said there may be an opportunity to partner with the parks department for future events.



Posted 3/9/2015




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