Chesterton Tribune



Guest Commentary: Save Sunset Hill: Keep the park a park

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Guest Commentary

Porter County Commissioners,

Like retired Westchester Township librarian, Jane Walsh-Brown, my husband and I are adamantly opposed to the location of the county animal shelter at Sunset Hill Farm. Walsh-Brown voices our concerns and the founding vision of Sunset Hill Farm. (See article in “Voice of The People,” Chesterton Tribune, vol. 130, September 11, 2013.)

We also concur with Porter County Parks Foundation President, Dave Yeager: “We want it to be left as a park. An animal shelter does not belong there.”

The Hwy 130 & Hwy 149 location is much more centrally located for the residents of the county. Additionally, shelter use of that land would not be in conflict with its existing usage. Many Valparaiso and Portage residents, as well as residents in the southern sector of the county, would be much closer to that site. (Should Portage need to utilize the shelter as its sole facility, there would be a large influx of animals and services needed just for that community alone.)

The animal shelter has had a horrendous short term history. Why would we botch Sunset Hill Farm’s stellar one?

For years our family has attended the various cross country meets at the farm. What a shame to ruin the courses and the beautiful surroundings citizens have so enjoyed in the past. Sunset Hill Farm is a semi-rural diamond. Don’t ruin it!

Do not even think about the southern portion of the farm either. Why rid our county of a great park? Officials and local businesses anticipate and encourage growth and development here in Porter County. As the population density and commerce spread, Sunset Hill Farm will be a haven for the nature and beauty of a by-gone era. It will be a retreat for all to enjoy. Don’t distort the vision of the founding of this farm park.

An animal shelter is just that. It is NOT a farm or a park! It may partnership with an educational facility but that is not its essential function. Noise, animals, outdoor kennels and runs, along with animal waste and the concurrent increase of insect life are HUGE and essential characteristics of an animal shelter. These are OBVIOUS detractors to our picturesque Sunset Hill Farm.

DON’T take choice land and put-in not only a 18-20,000 square foot facility but also another parking lot to boot! What about all the additional precipitation run-off to the farm and sewers?

What utilities/sewer facility bears the responsibility for the cleaning of the waste products from shelter water usage? One local utility is already burdened by the EPA mandated multi-million dollar run-off system/tank that needs to be built in compliance with federal regulations. Certainly there will be excessive moisture and sewage overflow. Would this be healthy for the hospital, patients and visitors so close by?

Are there concerns that the Army Corps of Engineering might raise that would jeopardize the farm usage once the shelter is there?

There is a plethora of issues and questions regarding the building of a county animal shelter. To saddle those matters on Sunset Hill Farm is impractical and imprudent. It is possibly disastrous to the farm.

Why welcome change where change is not needed!

I’m glad there is an anonymous donor for the animal shelter. That donor isn’t compelling the decision to build at Sunset Hill Farm, I hope. Please disclose the terms of the $1 million donation.

Lastly, to address Commissioner Blaney’s logic regarding the study obtained by the Shelter Planners of America. Just because the study suggests great visibility and public accessibility does not mean Sunset Hill Farm is the ‘go to’ site! If I was a director of an animal shelter, I would probably salivate ‘like a dog’ for a place like Sunset Hill Farm along with a million dollar donation and a new facility to boot! At its core, the study recommendations have the success of a ‘shelter’ at heart - not the success of our community park!

Sunset Hill Farm was founded for the enjoyment and recreation of the CITIZENS of Porter County. It wasn’t founded for abandoned, dangerous, ill or wounded pets and other animals! Should the county budget belt need tightening, the final act of the shelter may become more necessary. Sunset Hill Farm should not become the “go to” site for euthanizing county animals. It is a park. It is a farm.

I plan to attend the Porter County Parks Foundation public meeting on September 19 at 2 p.m., at the Porter County Administration Center, County Office Building in Valparaiso, Room 307.

I hope like-minded and concerned citizens will join me.


Natalie Halpin

Porter County resident

since 1992



Posted 9/18/2013





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