Chesterton Tribune



Porter County Park Board picks design firm for new south county park; NIHPA lease renewed

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The Porter County Parks and Recreation board held a special meeting last week to approve leases for next year and move forward with development of a new park outside of Kouts on the west side of Ind. 49.

Out of three firms considered by the Park Department’s Land Acquisition and Development Committee, the board voted unanimously last Monday to select a proposal from Ratio Construction, based in Indianapolis.

Ratio will provide master planning services on the 63.5 acre parcel just about a mile north of Kouts and currently in the process of being purchased by the Park Board for $600,000.

Under the proposal submitted by Ratio, possible features are athletic fields, buffer yards, a pedestrian trail system, a stormwater management system, non-programmed open space, and connections to surrounding residential communities.

The first task will be to have a “kickoff” meeting with parks staff to determine the scope and the desired goals.

After that, Ratio will develop three conceptual sketches based on site analysis done by the Duneland Group and input from parks staff, park board and stakeholders.

Ratio will also determine the construction costs and help prepare for a public open house displaying the possible designs, as well as build a website for the project.

Approximately $22,000 will be paid to Ratio for its work out of $60,000 the parks department has remaining in its acquisition funds.

Parks Planner Ray Joseph said all the “heavy lifting” will be done in-house including analyses, inventories, assembling documents and arranging public meetings and open houses.

In another motion related to the design of the new south county park, the board voted to enter into an agreement with the Duneland Group for engineering services at the same hourly rate they receive for projects with the County Planning Commission and also for the acquisition of landscaping materials not to exceed $37,000.

Parks Superintendent Walter Lenckos said using the Duneland Group will help keep costs down. He said Ratio will begin its work in January. Landscaping could be done in the spring, with the potential of having an athletic field ready by the end of 2014.

A steering committee has also formed to help set goals for the park and formulate ideas for fundraising.

The list of committee members includes Park Board member Craig Kenworthy, East Porter County Schools Superintendent Rod Gardin, Porter Township Schools Superintendent Stacey Schmidt, Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority Executive Director Bill Hanna, Good Hospital Services founder Jeff Good, Valparaiso University Asst. Athletic Director for Business Operations Stephen Anthony, Valpo Americans Baseball Coach John McQuestion, Slammers baseball coach Don Velsing, Triple Crown girls softball coach Kevin Bolen, Kouts High School girls softball coach Liz Chatwell, Kouts Town Council member Tim Jones, Porter County Sports Cabinet member Mark Hoffman, Porter County South Commissioner Laura Blaney and County Council member Jim Polarek.

Exhibit B includes

museum committee

Also meeting with board approval was a lease agreement with the Northern Indiana Historical Power Association, which goes under the name “Exhibit B,” that sets up a formal exchange of services NIHPA will provide for being allowed to use the buildings at Sunset Hill Farm County Park for equipment storage.

NIHPA President Nick Misch and other members have expressed an interest in expanding their partnership opportunities with the park department over the past year and came up with a new list of services they are willing to provide under Exhibit B, eight in all:

-- Form a “Museum Committee” charged with creating a museum in Sunset Hill Farm’s chicken coop. The committee will meet with Parks staff to assess building, determine modifications to building, mission of the exhibit, layout, and funding.

-- Repair or replace two south main doors of the chicken coop with new locks, hinges, and wood as needed.

-- Repair or replace the two main sliding doors, along with the main door located on the granary.

-- Repair leaking roof over the far east building, known as the “NIHPA shop” with Professional Grade roof sealant.

-- Securing the sawmill by removing the saw blade when the mill is not in use. Openings will be gated to prevent the public from entering the sawmill.

-- Raise grain for animal livestock at Sunset Hill Farm. The campground field used for Fall Harvest Festival will be cut and baled for hay and the hay will be given to Porter County Parks for animal livestock.

-- Notify parks staff possible Plow or Harvest Day demonstrations at the earliest possible time to allow advertisement and planning for educational programs.

-- Continue to assist the park department with maintenance of the grounds, buildings, provide help, and support during special events. The support will include manpower, equipment, materials and tools.

The lease is good for one-year and Misch has talked about expanding the lease to a longer term.

Park board members also renewed a lease with the non-profit Porter County Parks Foundation under the same conditions as the current agreement, giving $1 per year for use of land at Sunset Hill Farm. Lenckos said the board and Foundation have shown interest in expanding their partnership, moving forward with new joint projects.

Ponies and bees

In animal news, Sunset Hill Farm’s four-legged resident Mr. Tickles, a hackney pony, will be getting the gift of friendship for Christmas.

“Horses are highly social herd animals and don’t do well by themselves so we are finding (Mr. Tickles) a companion,” said Lenckos.

Her name is Sedona, also a pony, who belongs to one of the members of the park department’s new farm animal committee, Jamie Huss. Huss, an assistant director with the Washington Park Zoo in Michigan City, will let the parks department foster Sedona at Sunset Hill Farm with Mr. Tickles until April 1.

Lenckos said the farm animal committee will work with the park board in bringing more animal specimens to Sunset Hill Farm, making sure the parks department can provide the right care and have the funding for essential items, such as feed for the animals.

The goal is to teach children about farming and how life on a farm used to be years ago. Currently the park only has Mr. Tickles and a few chickens.

In a related matter, a memorandum of understanding was agreed to with R&M Apiary to add beekeeping to the list of programs at Sunset Hill Farm later next year. Lenckos said there will be two different programs for adults and the bees will be far enough away from the buildings and garden that they will not pose a threat.

But kids programs are not being left off the radar. An MOU was also approved to continue the Parents as Teachers program, which includes plans for a natural playground area near the children’s garden at Sunset Hill Farm.

The Children’s Garden where the former playground used to be is set to be redesigned by Hitchcock Design Group of Chicago. The park board hired Hitchcock to do the work not to exceed $20,000.


Posted 12/23/2013




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