Chesterton Tribune

Park board approves location for Sunset Hill Farm activity barn

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After a decade in development limbo, the construction of a new barn/activity building at Sunset Hill Farm County Park that will be used for educational purposes is finally in the works.

Richard Maxey of the Park Construction committee on Thursday referred to the “Raise the Barn” campaign, saying that those who made contributions to the Parks Foundation have waited long enough in this “eight-year gestation period.”

“It’s about time we gave birth to this baby,” said Maxey, scoring a few chuckles at the Porter County Board of Parks and Recreation meeting from the board and those sitting in the audience.

The “Raise the Barn” campaign started when there was interest to build a new barn or activity center that would have been used to hold banquets. More current plans aim to use the structure for enhancing and developing programs at Sunset Hill Farm, particularly youth summer camps and adult enrichment programs, said Parks Superintendent Walter Lenckos.

Lecknos also mentioned incorporating a children’s garden around the barn that could also be used for youth 4-H programs.

Discussions to breathe new life into the project were spurred a few months ago when board member Ruth Jarnecke said if plans weren’t in motion by Oct. 1, the Parks Foundation would have to refund the donations given to them-- around $180,000.

Local architect Brent Wagner drew up preliminary plans for the building which is to be a two-story structure. It will be located on the west side of the park where the former Murray dairy barn used to be.

The board voted 6-0 on the location as well as the proposed dimensions, 37” x 81”.

The board in the future will decide the builders to construct the project, the material for the building’s structure and roof, and final design.

Board member Rebecca Tomerlin offered the suggestion of having a tin or metal surface for the roof. She said she would also like the plans to include more windows on the second floor for cross-ventilation.

Lenckos said the committee will report to the board regularly, much like the current development process for the Brookdale Park.

Board president Rich Hudson asked that the committee keep the board in the know on how much costs will be.

He also suggested the use of public sewer for water utilities instead of having to build a well and septic system for the park.

The board has recently discussed using the Damon Run Conservancy District as its sewer system provider since the district is expanding through the parks’ property in order to reach the new hospital on the northwest corner of U.S. 6 and Ind. 49.

Board attorney David Hollenbeck is in talks with Damon Run on putting in an easement for the water and sewer at the park.

Next in the cards is to receive bids from firms interested in the construction.

From the audience, former parks board member Harold Erwin said he hopes that the barn will be built to blend in with the other structures at the park as the original property owner, Col. Robert Murray, would have liked it.

Erwin felt that giving the barn a different style would turn away visitors who like the park as it is.

Maxey expressed his appreciation and said this is the first time the parks board has approved to building a structure of this size from scratch.

Brookdale Planning Project Moving Through Four Stages

Paul Weise of JJR, the Chicago-based firm chosen by the board last month to do the work for the Brookdale Park master plan, told the board they were “in for an exciting ride.”

The group, along with SEH Inc. representative A. J. Monroe, presented a slideshow on the planned progression of the Master Plan process for Brookdale park, which will be located north of CR 900N and west of Meridian Rd. in Liberty Twp. near the CSX Railroad.

The planners are currently in their two-month “discovery” phase assessing the features on the 65-acre property that will be the county’s first active park featuring soccer and softball fields plus a walking/running perimeter trail.

In October, the planners will consider site plan alternatives and determine what options are possible for the park and their costs.

Once that is finished, the process for the Master Plan can begin. Phasing plans will be developed, as well as a five year plan for operation and funding. A preliminary master plan will be drawn up possibly sometime next spring followed shortly by the final master plan.

The fourth step will be site work construction to begin early 2012 if all goes according to plan.

Monroe said apart from the site, the roadways that would be used for entrance into the park would also need to be looked at for traffic safety reasons.

Gregg Kalpino of JJR will serve as project manager.

The planners are also consulting with former Portage Parks Superintendent Carl Fisher and Jim Eaton of TGI Systems, both of whom have achieved either national or international recognition, Monroe said.

Earlier in the meeting, Hollenbeck announced he expects the parks will have completed payment sometime today for the remaining 22.5 acres of land that will be included in the Brookdale park from the Michaels family.

Board Hoping Park Staff Evaluations Could Have

Ripple Effect

The board also voted unanimously on a proposal presented by Lenckos last month to regularly conduct performance appraisals as a standard operating procedure.

Lenckos said the plan will help staff members understand their role and objectives and allow them to be recognized for good work over the year.

Hudson showed enthusiasm toward the initiative and said he believes this would make the parks department the one department in the county other than the sheriff’s to review individual staff performance on a yearly basis. He said the parks department could be setting a good example in county government.

Hollenbeck also agreed, saying performance appraisals are “important in today’s management world that we live in.”

Also Thursday, Lenckos invited those in attendance to join a focus group meeting on the future development of Brincka-Cross Gardens park in Furnessville. Sessions will be held next Wednesday and Thursday, Sept. 8 and 9, at the park itself. Anyone interested in attending is asked to call the parks department at (219)465-5192.


Posted 9/3/2010