It looks like the Porter County Parks and Recreation Board may be
gravitating towards its Plan A for the permanent location of the Raise the
Barn education center at Sunset Hill Farm County Park.
That is a change from the general feeling at September’s board meeting when
a few members suggested having the proposed 10,000 square-foot center be
erected north of the main entrance parking lot to make it more visible from
U.S. 6. Board members Rebecca Tomerlin and Craig Kenworthy said then that
the proposed location would have firmer ground and less drainage maintenance
issues, compared to the original plan to place it near the site of the old
Murray dairy barn, and would be less costly.
But on Thursday, board member Kenworthy said that after comments from other
park board members and the public, the new recommendation would be to place
the center immediately west of the former dairy barn location. He mentioned
the siding will match the character of the other buildings around it.
However, Kenworthy said the soil will need to be checked to make sure it is
suitable for building. He suggested the use of soil borings and if the
ground turns out to be insufficient then another location can be considered.
“We’re going to start there and move on,” said Kenworthy.
The board approved with a 5-0 vote a motion by board member David Canright
A series of seven to 14 borings are expected to be made to test the soil.
Parks Superintendent Walter Lenckos said the work could cost up to $3,000 at
most according to an estimate but he expects the final amount to be less.
Keeping the Raise the Barn activity center moving towards construction, the
board also voted 5-0 to ask the County Commissioners to create a new
non-reverting fund, to keep the county economic development income tax (CEDIT)
dollars for the design and construction of center, which could roll over for
Lenckos said $304,211 of CEDIT is available to put in the fund, not
including the $200,000 collected by the Porter County Parks Foundation,
which will be used later for construction costs. Approval for the
transactions will have to come from the County Council.
From the audience, parks supporter Herb Read said instead of just being a
meeting room disguised as a barn, his hopes for Raise the Barn include
agriculture education programs – livestock and grain production – for
children especially, to show what life on a farm is like to urban
to be sold?
Next, the board followed up on a discussion regarding use of the former
County Home grounds on Ind. 2 located near the southern boundary of the
Valparaiso city limits in front of the Essex subdivision.
In October, representatives from the Valparaiso Soccer Club approached the
board on the subject of teaming up to develop part of the 9-acre parcel into
two or three soccer fields. The club utilizes fields at different Valparaiso
city parks but, due to an influx of different teams, availability of fields
The County Parks Department in the meantime had made the estimation that up
to $70,000 would be required for engineer work.
Kenworthy asked if the board would start the discussion proposing to sell
the land to Valparaiso Parks Department and use the proceeds to develop an
additional park site somewhere in the unincorporated areas of the county.
“It’s just a thought,” he said.
The County Home grounds are not owned by the parks department, however, but
by the County Commissioners, board president Rich Hudson said.
Canright said that if Commissioners want the site to become a park, they
should deed the land.
“If they are not sure what they want to do, we don’t know what to do with it
either,” said Canright.
If the board wants to continue towards the scenario of working with the
Valparaiso Soccer Club on implementing soccer fields, Canright said he would
not be opposed, as long as the watersheds are protected, but the action
should not take funds away from the county parks department’s other
Hudson said he and Lenckos can set up meetings with the Commissioners to
discuss either selling the land or deeding it. Lenckos added that he has
discussed potential ways a partnership could be formed with the Valparaiso
City parks since the county parks does not currently oversee any active
From the floor, former park board member Richard Maxey said that years ago a
master plan, at a cost $40,000, was developed for the County Home site that
included recreation fields and suggested the board recycle that as a way to
save money. Board members said they still have the document and have taken a
look at it recently.
A number of grants were announced at the meeting. Lenckos said the
Valparaiso Rotary Club has gifted $4,125 for Sunset Hill’s Community Garden.
Lenckos said with the recent purchases of the new roto-tiller and tractor,
“We’re going to have a heck of a garden next year.”
Through the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, a $25,000 Lake Michigan
Coastal Grant will be used to develop trails at Brincka-Cross Gardens park
in Furnessville. Lenckos said that extra money from the Commissioners to
expand Brincka-Cross’ parking lot will also help with trails.
Meanwhile, Hudson presented a letter from the John W. Anderson Foundation of
Valparaiso that announced an unrestricted grant of $10,000 be given to the
county parks department.
Festival Nov. 17
Displays are nearly up and ready for the Parks’ annual Winter Lights
Festival set for Nov. 17, from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., at Sunset Hill Farm,
The festival will conclude with fireworks at approximately 7 p.m. Children
can visit with Santa Claus, create crafts and other activities. Cost for the
event is $5 per car. “Cram in as many people as you can,” said Lenckos.
Also on Thursday, Northern Indiana Historical Power Association member Nick
Misch said he has been elected to lead the group as president next year.
Misch asked that either Lenckos or a member from the staff attend bimonthly
NIHPA meetings to keep communication open.