Chesterton Tribune                                                                                   Adv.

County parks gearing up for annual Winter Lights Festival at Sunset Hill

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

The Porter County Parks and Recreation Department knows it has some pretty big expectations to meet for this year’s annual Winter Lights Festival at Sunset Hill Farm County Park next week.

Last year’s light show attracted a total of approximately 3,500 visitors, even a few from out-of-state to the county park located immediately south of the U.S. 6 and Meridian Rd. intersection in Liberty Twp.

Porter County Parks Superintendent Walter Lenckos hinted this year could be even bigger. The lights will be back this year in full swing, he said, along with face-painting, singing / caroling groups, local food vendors, wagon rides, cookie decorating, holiday crafts, additional games for children, and picture time with Santa Claus.

New to the event this year will be the park’s first hoofed residents in some years. Although Santa’s reindeer they are not, six Nigerian dwarf goats will be arriving at the park in time for the big day. Lenckos said the goats will be kept at Sunset Hill Farm to be included in next spring’s field trip season as part of the expanding programs at the park.

Lenckos said representatives from the Porter County Animal Shelter will be on-hand at the event.

The Winter Lights Night will be from 3 to 7 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 20, followed by a fireworks finale approximately at 7:15. Charge for admission will be $5 per car.

Use South Entrance

Saturday, Nov. 20

One really important thing to know, Lenckos said, is that visitors will only be admitted through the south entrance on Meridian Rd. for entering and exiting as opposed to entering through the main gate close by the U.S. 6 intersection. Officers from the Porter County Sheriff’s Police will be there to guide visitors along.

“We’re hoping to not clog up the corner. Everybody will be going South on Meridian,” said Lenckos. Guests will be directed to CR 700N to get back to where they need to go.

Although many of the displays will be roughly the same, the parks department this year is beginning to use LED lights along the fence rows that use less electricity.

More than $3,000 in sponsorships has already been pledged this year from community partners during the planning stages, which shows great support from the community, said Lenckos.

The department has also distributed 15,000 fliers advertising the event to school children in Porter County. Several hundred full color posters were also made up and helped paid for by the county commissioners.

Lenckos said the lights will be available for drive-through viewing each night until the few days before Christmas. Visitors driving through may view the lights for free.

“We’ve certainly got a lot (of displays). There is everything from circus scenes, to carousels to a fishing scene. There are just all sorts of stuff. It’s crazy,” said Lenckos.

In other matters, the parks department is not letting the winter weather stifle their Wellness programs at Sunset Hill Farm. A beginner’s running club is in the works and, more in-tune with the weather, a snowshoe program will also be starting up headed by Recreation staffers Gayle O’Conner and Amy Hartz.

Lenckos said the department is acquiring the snowshoes for the program which is open to all levels of experience. The staff is currently planning trail walks designed specifically for the program.

“We’re looking to schedule some dates as soon as the snow starts falling,” he said. “You can tromp around and see the park in a different way.”

Lastly, Lenckos said the fall field trip season at Sunset Hill Farm was very successful, crediting the good weather as one of the factors. The program saw over 700 students and 150 adults through the outdoor education program.

Pre-Master Plan Shows Garden Campus at Brincka-Cross

Roughly the same time the parks department expects to have a master plan for its Brookdale Park in its hands, Lehman & Lehman architects may be able to deliver a Master Plan for the parks’ Brincka-Cross property in Furnessville sometime next spring.

The park board hired Lehman & Lehman as consultants in 2008 for approximately $66,000. Further discussions have struggled to keep up, but revived earlier this year by landscape architect Chuck Lehman in April when the 25-acre park opened its garden area to the public.

Focus group sessions took place in September and a grand reopening is slated for next spring with a full schedule of new programs.

Lenkcos said the park may be divided “not physically,” but a five-acre Garden Campus portion may be apportioned from the Gardens Park which will be situated in twenty acres of woodlands.

“There is going to probably be a separate management plan for the woodland area that would be different from the plan for the area surrounding the house,” Lenckos said. The decision he said was based on discussions they have had with landscape professionals.

The two areas have different species of plant life. The park is noted for its 400 different varieties of hostas.

The property once belonged to Chicago artist William Brincka and longtime friend Basil Cross. Brincka considered his garden as one of his works of art.

Lenckos said the garden campus could be developed as a non-profit 501c3 entity to develop its own marketing strategy.

Brookdale

For the Brookdale Park Master Plan, the parks department recently held a public open house to gather suggestions and develop different proposal alternatives with cost figures based on those suggestions. The Brookdale Park will be the county’s first park that will double as an active and passive park.

Lenckos said the information gathered at the open house earlier this morning will be packaged and presented to the park board at its December meeting by consultants JJR Associates.

 

Posted 11/10/2010

 

 

 

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