Chesterton Tribune



Sunset Hill education center, Aukiki park are Porter County Parks' top priorities for 2016

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The Porter County Parks Department anticipates spending most of this year focusing on development of the “Raise-the-Barn” education center at Sunset Hill Farm and Aukiki Park north of Kouts on Ind. 49.

The Park Board met briefly Thursday to decide what it’s priorities will be in the new year with input from staff and elected officials.

Parks Superintendent Walter Lenckos said the surveys collected ranked Aukiki and the education center as being “by far” the highest. Third on the list is the development of trails at Sunset Hill Farm and fourth is updating the department’s master plan.

Last month, bids were received for the education center that put costs at nearly $3 million. Lenckos said workshop sessions have been scheduled later this month with county officials so they can share their input before he makes a request for funding at a future County Council meeting.

Along with the focus on the trails at Sunset Hill, Lenckos said the parks department intends to install new signage and one resident is looking towards building a kiosk at the park for his Eagle Scout project. The new dock on the pond will be ready next week and the next phase will start soon for the prairie restoration, Lenckos added.

For Aukiki, board member Craig Kenworthy who has spearheaded the development there, said he would like tree plantings to be part of the long-term plan. One species he hopes to plant is sugar maple so that “thirty years down the line” there can be programs to make maple syrup.

Aukiki is being planned as an active park with soccer, softball and baseball fields.

Brincka-Cross wins state award

In other news, Lenckos said that next week the County Parks Department will accept the “Good to Great” award from the Indiana Park and Recreational Association for Brincka-Cross Gardens.

Lenckos said this is the first time the department has received an award like this from the state group.

“This puts a feather in our cap,” he said. “We are really excited.” Lenckos gave credit to landscape architect Charles Lehman for his assistance with the park’s master plan and to board member David Canright who has been the board advocate for the trails and other improvements.

Lenckos mentioned the IPRA gave the award to two park departments in the state this year. The other was to Brownsburg Parks Department.

Cain property

Not far from Brincka-Cross Gardens, the Parks Department officially closed on the purchase of 137 acres of land in Pine Twp. on Old Chicago Rd. near CR 500 East, board attorney David Hollenbeck told the board in his report.

The acquisition has become known as the “Cain Property” after Thomas Cain who sold the property for $850,000 earlier last year.

“Now we take on the momentous task of what to do with 137 acres,” Hollenbeck said.

Since the purchase was made entirely from land conservation grants, the land is limited to passive use.

Canright expressed interest in being a leader for the property’s development and looking at partnership opportunities with environmental and conservation groups in Northwest Indiana.

Organization postponed

With park board members Drew Armstong and Annetta Jones absent, the board agreed to postpone officer elections to next month. Board members will then be assigned to lead different committees.



Posted 1/8/2016




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