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
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.
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 MOU will be in
effect for ten years but can be terminated if any of the terms are not
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
With the board’s
approval, Hollenbeck, Lenckos and Hudson will work with IGRS to finalize the
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
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
Lenckos said the
parks would lose about one-sixth of an acre to the neighbor.
Day of Caring
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
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
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
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.
“Those of you who
knew Dick knew he was a very giving person,” Hudson said.