Chesterton Tribune



Park board hears of new entrance at Sunset Hill; trail improvements eyed

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The line to get in and out of Sunset Hill Farm for the Winter Lights Festival will be shorter this year said Porter County Parks Superintendent Walter Lenckos, with an additional entrance/exit created off of Meridian Road.

During Thursday’s Park Board meeting, Lenckos thanked the County Highway Department and park maintenance staff for constructing a 40-foot entry south of the main entrance that leads into the event parking area.

Winter Lights is set for Saturday, Nov. 22, from 3 to 8 p.m., with a visit from Santa Claus, the ice princess and snow queen and “the most amazing fireworks show you will ever see in November,” Lenckos said.

Park Board members put their own contributions together to purchase a tree sponsorship for the festival, after member Craig Kenworthy suggested the donation. “I thought it would be something nice that we could do,” he said.

More enhancements to Sunset Hill park were discussed in the meeting, one of which is to rehabilitate the trail system, which has suffered damage this past month due to heavy usage from events and a steady dose of rain, Lenckos said.

With a large turnout for Haunted Hayrides during a wet weekend, “ruts” were left on the trails, particularly those on the northeast side of the property, Lenckos said.

Lenckos said the damage is severe enough that it is a safety issue for trail users and proposed to the board a list of three options for next spring -- to create new trails for wagons that would be separate from the walking trails, re-engineer the trail so that it can sustain multiple users, or restricting usage of the trails by one or more user groups.

Nick Misch, president of the Northern Indiana Historical Power Association which holds events at Sunset Hill Farm, offered NIHPA assistance to help “smooth out” the trails once they dry up.

Lenckos said park maintenance crews put down crush gravel in the roads around the Col. Murray Memorial Garden that were also rutted from the rain.

Also, Lenckos said the Pond and Prairie area currently being restored at Sunset Hill Farm has been sprayed with a herbicide treatment that has turned it a brownish color. He said a prescribed burn will possibly happen this spring and seeds will be planted, but the pond and prairie will not be returning to a “showy and sexy” green until after next year. The staff will also engage in management and monitor training for the restoration next spring.

Residence at Brookdale

In other business, the park board agreed that a park staff member should reside in the house on a short-term basis at Brookdale Park, located between CR 950 North and CR 900 North on CR 50 West, after Lenckos reported signs of trespassing.

After the former park manager moved out of the house a few months ago, Bryan McFadden who is exploring the parks for a possible urban deer hunt program told Lenckos he spotted tracks made by an off road vehicle and evidence that someone had tried to use a boat on the existing pond.

Lenckos said monitoring is needed because of the possibility of someone getting hurt or trespassing onto neighboring properties. Park Planner Ray Joseph will be moving into the house.

“We hope this will alleviate the problems,” said Lenckos.

On a similar note, Kenworthy suggested having a researcher or a biologist stay in the house at Brincka-Cross Gardens, which would benefit the parks department in the task of identifying the different plant and animal species there and also in the National Lakeshore.

Lenckos said housing a biology expert at Brincka-Cross is mentioned in the parks master plan.

In other business:

-- Joseph said the Plan Commission at its meeting this month will hear the Park Department’s request to rezone Aukiki Park’s 63 acres, at Ind. 49 and CR 650 South, from Single-family Residential to Parks and Recreation (P2). The P2 designation is more suitable for parks with active features, he said. The meeting will be held next Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at the County Administration Building. The plans for Aukiki Park were warmly received last month by the Kouts Town Council, Joseph said.

-- NIHPA President Nick Misch said nearly all of the farm equipment the group has at Sunset Hill Farm is now inside and work on the proposed “museum” has begun. The public can come view the machinery and eventually NIHPA would like to have features that can be accessed on cell phones showing videos of how the machines work. “Our mission has come along. It’s worked out better than we ever thought,” said Misch.

-- The board approved an additional allocation to mail out “The REporter” to county residents informing them of the programs going on at the parks. Lenckos said the quarterly publication is expected to go out the first week of December.

-- Lenckos said $3,500 was raised in the online fundraiser for the Children’s Playground at Sunset Hill Farm Park, which was more than he expected. He said he will pursue a $150,000 grant with the Indiana American Water Environmental Grant program for the playground.

-- The board welcomed its newest member, George “Drew” Armstrong, who replaces resigning member Erik Koszuzek.


Posted 11/7/2014




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