Chesterton Tribune



Park Board solidifies agreement for model railroad at Sunset Hill

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A memorandum of understanding with the Illiana Garden Railway Society to have a “permanent home” at Sunset Hill Farm was favored by the Porter County Parks Board 5-0 on Thursday.

The 100’ x 50’ layout for the model display, according to the MOU, will be located near the old restroom building southeast of the pond. Besides the space, there will be a 12’ x 12’ building erected for IGRS to house equipment for controls and additional unheated indoor space is needed to store the model buildings, trains and equipment during the winter.

IGRS President David Ransem approached the board last fall asking it to consider allowing his organization to relocate to the park after Samuelson’s Nursery in Washington Twp., where it first built the display, closed. The MOU states that the layout at Sunset Hill Farm will be similar to the one at the nursery. Parking for ten cars will be allowed on the grassy area adjacent to the display.

The MOU will be in effect for ten years but can be terminated if any of the terms are not complied with.

IGRS is to secure its own liability insurance and is responsible to keep the area “clean, neat and attractive.” It is also asked to participate “to the best of its ability” in park-wide improvements, advertising and fundraising campaigns as well as Park Department events like Spring Out to Sunset Festival, the Prairie Magic Music Festival and the Meet the Animals program.

In return, the Parks Department agrees in the MOU to provide IGRS with garbage and compost disposal facilities, available restrooms and utilities including electrical power for the model train and buildings.

Park Board member Drew Armstrong said he doesn’t disagree about covering utilities at no expense to the IGRS but worried it could set a precedent. Board attorney David Hollenbeck and Parks Superintendent Walter Lenckos said that the IGRS will require a relatively small amount of electricity. Ransem said it is a low voltage track.

The meter can be checked and if use of electrical power becomes an issue, the Board and IGRS can come back to make a change in the MOU, said Park Board President Richard Hudson.

With the board’s approval, Hollenbeck, Lenckos and Hudson will work with IGRS to finalize the agreement.

Lenckos said the new partnership continues the department’s pattern of developing relationships with local non-profit groups like the Northern Indiana Historical Society, the Duneland Photography Club and Parents As Teachers.

“It’s a good fit in my opinion,” Lenckos said.

Land swap at Brincka-Cross

In other matters, the board approved 5-0 to make a “land swap” with a neighbor whose boundary is adjacent with the acquired acreage at Brincka Cross Gardens Park in Pine Twp. on Furness Rd.

The neighbor had an issue on where the boundaries of the property were. Hollenbeck said the parks department has made evaluations to check the accuracy and has determined to rectify the boundary lines and proceed with a land swap to resolve the conflict.

The board met several times over the past few months in executive session to discuss the matter.

Lenckos said the parks would lose about one-sixth of an acre to the neighbor.

Day of Caring

Today, 60 volunteers from United Way of Porter County will be working on four different tasks at Sunset Hill Farm.

Lenckos said Sunset Hill was picked as one of the sites for United Way’s Day of Caring. Volunteers will remove invasive species from the prairie and pond area, plant wildflower seeds, make improvements to the Dino Dig section of the playground, and repair trails for the fall cross country season.

“This is very exciting for us,” Lenckos said. He also mentioned that a $5,000 grant from NIPSCO was given to the pond and prairie restoration and ArcelorMittal gave $10,000 for the natural playground development.

Next Saturday is the Prairie Magic Music Festival and the annual Babapalooza is this Sunday at Sunset Hill, Lenckos said and encouraged the public to attend.

NIHPA will be providing wagon rides from the parking lot to the amphitheater during the events.

Lenckos said later this month the Parks Department will be at the Aukiki River Fest on Saturday, Aug. 26 at the Historic Collier Lodge along the Kankakee River in Pleasant Twp. It will be organizing a scavenger hunt again this year, he said.

Also in his staff report, Lenckos said Waterfowl USA which manages a wetland near the Town of Hebron is interested in partnering with the Parks Department to help with its operations.

At the start of the meeting, Hudson recognized the passing of Richard “Dick” Knutson, who died on July 15. Knutson was an active member of the Porter County Parks Foundation and donations from his memorial will go to the Westchester Twp. Bird Sanctuary.

“Those of you who knew Dick knew he was a very giving person,” Hudson said.


Posted 8/4/2017




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