Chesterton Tribune



Model railroad display finds home at Sunset Hill Farm Park

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The Porter County Parks and Recreation Board voted 5-0 Thursday on a location for Illiana Garden Railroad Society’s model railway and village display that will be on display for park visitors to enjoy at Sunset Hill Farm.

It took nearly half a year for a spot to be chosen that could accommodate the railroad without disrupting other activities in the park, including some long discussions at several park board meetings, but agreement was reached on a recent search by members of the park board, park staff, the Northern Indiana Historical Power Association (NIHPA) and the IGRS.

Parks Superintendent Walter Lenckos said a site was found on the grassy area west of the old bathrooms along the road that leads to the amphitheater, between Redbud Trail and the pond.

“It appears to fit all the criteria the Society has asked for yet still works with the constraints with what we have in the plans of developing Sunset Hill Farm County Park,” Lenckos said.

Board member David Canright said the location looks down on where the new pier is on the pond but its sits far enough back that there would not be a conflict.

“The biggest success is that it’s kid friendly and doesn’t have a big footprint,” said Canright, who thinks the railroad will complement the playground and farm animals near the front entrance of the park. “It’s not too crammed of an area and they can all feed off each other.”

From the IGRS, President David Ransom and Treasurer Owen Todd said the footprint that the display will require is about 40’ x 80’. They have the railroad and town scene currently at Samuelson’s Nursery on Ind. 2 near Washington Twp. School, but with the nursery closing, a new location is needed.

The Society requested that the Park Board consider giving them a space at Sunset Hill Farm at the board’s meeting last November. There is about 1,100 feet of track that circulate around the model town called Franville with a mill, baseball diamond, a lake, engine supply yard, a farm and an oil storage facility.

An outbuilding will be required to store the equipment during the off-season, they said.

The Society and the park board began looking at possible areas for the display around the parking lot and barns. Todd said he was reluctant about putting it farther away from the main parking area as people wouldn’t be able to see it, but his concerns were eased when Lenckos said signage could be used to guide visitors and it would be visible to trail users and others attending activities at the park.

“I don’t see any disadvantage at all. It’s a very nice spot. It’s a beautiful view and close enough to the bathrooms so we can get power very quickly,” said Todd.

Parks Communications Director Darlene Cohn said she would help promote the railroad as families are looking for recreation that their children can enjoy.

Park Board President Rich Hudson said “it’s very exciting” to have IGRS’ railroad added to the parks list of attractions. “This is a new kind of partner for us,” he said.

Board member Craig Kenworthy asked if the IGRS will put any fencing around the display. Todd said eventually they will to protect it from deer.

The board voted 5-0 to accept the location. Absent from the meeting was member Tom Schnabel.

Ransom said the railroad will be open this season at Samuelson’s Nursery from May 6 to Sept. 16 and then volunteers will move it to Sunset Hill Farm. Anyone interested in volunteering can call 219-242-2372, Ransom said, or visit the Friends of the Illiana Garden Railroad Society’s Facebook page.

Brincka Cross parking and entrance

In his staff report, Lenckos congratulated the board on closing on the purchase of 15 acres for the westward expansion of Brincka Cross Gardens Park. The acquisition was funded by grant money and former property owner John Petryszyn sold the property to the park board.

Lenckos said park staff is working on a new parking area. The property already had some gravel for storage and the lot will have connections to trails.

This will be another entry to the park on Furness Rd. near CR 425E in Pine Twp. The park opened to the public in 2010 and since has had limited parking available. With the addition of the new parking area, the loop that is there now will be used to park vehicles like buses, Lenckos said.

Lenckos also said there is money left from the closing sale of the property that will be put into a fund created specifically for Brincka Cross.

Trails at Brookdale

Meanwhile, Lenckos announced that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has approved funding for pollinator plantings, like milkweed, asters and black-eyed susans, for pathways on the west end of the undeveloped Brookdale Park located along CR 900 N near CR 50 W, in Liberty Twp.

The funding for the pollinators would be available in the fall. Lenckos said the pathways will guide visitors to the pond.

“By 2018, we could legitimately say the park is open,” Lenkos said. “People can see the flowers and use Brookdale for more formal usage.”

Kenworth asked about safety around the pond and Canright agreed that a plan should be made to make the bank more stable. Hudson said the parks could seek out Porter County Soil and Water Conservancy District Engineer Harvey Nix who could give guidelines on how to stabilize the land surrounding the ponds.

Spring Out to Sunset

The annual Spring Out to Sunset Hill Festival will be Saturday, May 20, from 12 to 5 p.m. There will be a vintage baseball game with the Sunset Hill Colonels and the Deep River Grinders at noon.

Admission for the Festival is $5 per car.



Posted 5/5/2017




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