residents seem eager to get into the spirit of the holidays as County Parks
Superintendent Walter Lenckos said this year’s Winter Lights Festival at
Sunset Hill Farm saw a possible record crowd.
Lenckos said over
1,000 cars were counted on Saturday, Nov. 19 at the event. That beats the
800 or so cars counted two years ago which was the previous record since
“Thank you to
everyone involved. The festival was an absolute tremendous success,” Lenckos
said at Thursday’s County Park Board meeting. “It’s the largest turnout in
recent memory by 25 percent.”
The Festival kicks
off Sunset Hill Farm’s Winter Lights display which will be open every night
through New Year’s. Lenckos said families can tour the lights for free from
dusk to 10 p.m. The park is located at the corner of U.S. 6 and Meridian Rd.
in Liberty Township.
Hosting the event
was the Porter County Parks Foundation, a separate non-profit organization
dedicated to supporting the County Parks system. Sponsors, donors and other
supporters were able to meet some of the Foundation board members which
Lenckos said was “an incredibly positive thing to see” as the Foundation and
the Parks Department continue to grow a beneficial relationship.
commended members of the Northern Indiana Historical Power Association for
adding extra wagons to offer rides for the larger crowd.
Also in the
meeting, the board heard from Lenckos that the small, one-third acre of land
that a Florida resident is considering donating to the Parks Department near
Beverly Shores is surrounded primarily by lands belonging to the United
States Government--the National Lakeshore, and the Shirley Heinze Land
Lenckos said he has
had conversations with both entities on whether they have any interest in
further development of those properties. The conversations have been
preliminary but neither entity has indicated an intention to use those
lands, Lenckos said.
The parcel is
located south of the Town of Beverly Shores on Derby Ave. and is in a wooded
area. The board last month said if they end up deciding to accept the
property as a donation, it could be sold to gain a profit.
Lenckos said he
will continue to speak with the National Park Service and Shirley Heinze
matters, the Park Board voted 5-0 to renew its annual lease with the Parks
Foundation for use of land at Sunset Hill Farm in 2017.
The Foundation has
gradually handed over lots at Sunset Hill Farm to the Porter County Park
Board but still owns a 36.5-acre parcel on the north side of the park which
the Park Department uses for its operations. The lessee -- the Park Board --
agrees to pay the lessor -- the Foundation -- $1 per year.
President David Neville inquired if language could be changed in the lease
to not hold the Foundation at fault for any injuries or major accidents on
its parcels that the Parks Department uses, including pre-existing
Park Board attorney
David Hollenbeck said the lease already does indemnify the owner from
accidents. He said this is the first time he’s heard Neville’s request and
said he would be willing to talk to him later about the potential changes.
“This is the way
it’s been for 25 years,” Hollenbeck said.
Board member David
Canright said he thinks the board should still vote to accept the lease,
adding “we are comfortable with it” and allow the Foundation to make changes
if it wishes.
The board voted 5-0
to accept the lease. Absent from the meeting was board member Tom Schnabel.
Hollenbeck was also
asked by NIHPA to make changes in its lease with the Park Board. NIHPA
President Mike Andrews requested that the lease say “fall harvest festival
and power show” for the group’s event the last weekend of September.
For the board’s
January meeting, Lenckos said Ron Vine and Associates will give a
presentation on the results from the needs survey sent out to 5,000 county
residents earlier in the fall.
Members of the
Parks Foundation and other stakeholders are invited to hear the presentation
that will tell what residents would like to see or not see at the County
Parks. A new Master Plan for the Parks will be completed sometime in 2017.
A Master Plan
Committee meeting will be held on Tuesday, Dec. 13 at 7 p.m. inside the
Program Center at Sunset Hill Farm.
Nicole Murray in the public comments portion of the meeting said the Parks’
Animal Program committee would like to slow the acquisition of animals in
the plan through 2020 so members can learn more about best practices and
care for the animals.
Next year, the
committee wishes to acquire sheep as well as two ducks. It wishes to acquire
cows in 2018, pigs in 2019 and donkeys and llamas in 2020.
Canright said the
proposal should be put in writing and be brought to the board at its January
Photography Club leader Deb Armstrong said the club has new photos of Winter
Lights for the Parks’ website. The club will host a public class in March on
cell phone photography, she added.