About a dozen or so members and supporters of the Northern Indiana
Historical Power Association attended Thursday’s Porter County Parks and
Recreation Board meeting in support of a new long-term lease agreement for
use of facilities at Sunset Hill Farm County Park.
In June, the board voted to continue the annual lease it has with NIHPA with
the goal of opening up discussion for a multi-year lease involving more
collaboration between the parks and the non-profit volunteer group.
Four residents spoke supporting the role NIHPA plays in educating the
community about farming methods of a bygone era now that much of the
educational programs have ceased at Chellberg Farm in the Indiana Dunes
Speaking first was County Councilwoman Sylvia Graham, D-At Large, who
favored a long-range lease for NIHPA to develop more programming and asked
the board to remember that NIHPA helped to restore many of the buildings at
Sunset Hill Farm.
The group’s Fall Festival and Antique Equipment Show, which is scheduled for
Sept. 27-29 this year, brings about a lot of “reminiscing on the way things
used to be done” that is enjoyable for those who grew up on a farm, Graham
Jackson Twp. resident Donald Dutcher said many children today believe food
comes from a grocery store, never learning that food is grown on farms and
NIHPA has the opportunity to provide that insight.
“It has the potential to teach children where food comes from,” Dutcher
Adding to the comments, Liberty Twp. resident Ed Gutt said NIHPA has the
ability to turn Sunset Hill Farm into a classroom “teaching our kids what
nature has to offer” and be a “better tool for Porter County to have.”
Parks supporter and Liberty Twp. resident Herb Read reiterated his wish for
Porter County to have a “smelly old, manure-smelling, honest to God barn”
for educating future generations on what farm life was like.
Board President Rich Hudson said he understands “a lot of emotion that comes
with NIHPA” and stated it is the board’s intention to set up a long term
lease with a “solution that is good for everybody,” which prompted applause
from NIHPA supporters.
In attendance, NIHPA President Nick Misch thanked park board members Craig
Kenworthy and Ruth Jarnecke for coming to the club’s meeting this week
willing to facilitate communication.
They have begun discussing new ideas for “Exhibit B”, Misch said, which
lists services NIHPA gives in exchange for having use of facilities at
Sunset Hill Farm.
In addition to the Fall Festival, Misch said NIHPA will be offering half
hour hayrides at Sunset Hill Farm on Saturday, Aug. 17, from 6 to 10 p.m.
which will include insights about the farm’s history. Costs are $3 per
person, Misch said.
Seance program conjures a stir
Also, Park Board members are mulling whether to allow the Parks Department
to sponsor a program that was advertised as a “seance” in the most recent
recreation program guide mailed to residents this past month.
The board ultimately voted 5-0 to table the matter until it hears from the
program’s presenters at the board’s September meeting.
Board member Craig Kenworthy started the discussion saying he would not be
in favor of sponsoring the “sŽance” program as well as a few others listed
under the heading of “Adult Enrichment” in the parks department’s bi-annual
program guide such as “Animal Totems” and “Dream Interpretation” because the
spiritual themes are against his religious beliefs.
“I just think it is a terrible idea,” Kenworthy said.
According to the program guide, the seance program will be held on Oct. 19
at Brincka-Cross Gardens Park led by a paranormal investigator and an
amateur historian employing traditional techniques to contact “departed
Participants are required to be at least 21 years of age and pay a $20
participation fee which is shared between the presenters and the parks
As Kenworthy motioned to cancel the program, board member David Canright
questioned if the board and the department should be deciding whether to
endorse religious or spiritual-based programs, saying those groups should
have the right to use the park just as any other group, adding that he would
vote in favor of Kenworthy’s motion understanding that it was only to turn
down the park’s sponsorship.
Canright said the comments spoken may be just “wild labels and accusation”
since the board did not have firsthand knowledge of the program. He said it
is possible that the “sŽance” may not be religion-based and that the dream
interpretation program may actually have roots in psychology.
“We don’t even know what this is,” Canright said. “It might be a mistake to
act on the basis of rumor.”
Board attorney David Hollenbeck said that he did not see this as a first
amendment issue because he does not believe the programs in question are
Hollenbeck did say that Kenworthy’s motion was within the board’s rights, to
turn down a sponsorship, as it would be a “legitimate policy decision,” not
denying an exercise of religion.
Parks Superintendent Walter Lenkcos told the Chesterton Tribune that
the department does not endorse any religion or spirituality. All park
programs are intended for the “enrichment and entertainment” of residents.
New board member
The board welcomed Kris Parker as the new board member representing the
Porter County Extension Office.
Parks to educate county
on storm water management
Also during the attorney’s report, the board voted in favor of a memorandum
of understanding with the County Commissioners for the parks department to
take charge of the education component of the mandated MS4 program whose
purpose is to enlighten citizens about the importance of preserving water
Lenckos said the Commissioners felt the parks department was the best agency
to fulfill the integral education segment. The County has recently beefed up
its effort to meet the MS4 requirements by hiring Hudson as the coordinator
and establishing an advisory committee made up of local officials and
Right now there is no funding for the effort on the parks’ part as Hudson
explained the committee and the commissioners will determine costs later and
bring the matter to the County Council.
From the audience, parks supporter Charlotte Read said she would like to see
opportunities for the public to get involved in the MS4 program and for the
meetings to be advertised in the media. Hudson said there would be
information available on Porter County’s new website.
In other business, Lenckos said work is progressing on the 1.5 miles of
trails at Brincka-Cross Gardens, which are expected to be finished by the
end of this year, along with the new parking lot paid for with the help of
the County Commissioners.