Chesterton Tribune

Donated horse to join Sunset Hill Farm; Raise the Barn center to begin first phase

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Sunset Hill Farm is starting to look more and more like… well, a farm.

In addition to moving forward with plans for the Raise the Barn activity center Thursday, the Porter County Parks board also unanimously voted to accept a horse to be kept at Sunset Hill Farm for educational purposes, in addition to the goats already there.

Board member Craig Kenworthy speaking on behalf of the parks’ Land Acquisition committee said “a very benevolent” person made the offer to donate the animal with the moniker of “Tickle Tickle.”

Parks Superintendent Walter Lenckos later revealed the donor to be his sister who lives out of state. He said “Tickle Tickle” should arrive on May 17, just in time for the Spring Out to Sunset event on May 19.

Before the vote, board members asked if there was a plan in place for how staff will care for the horse and insisted that all proper medical provisions be met before the animal is transported across states lines.

Lenckos said he would see to it that the horse receives the necessary vaccinations and affirmed there will be arrangements made for the staff to care for the animal. He said the parks department has a contracted veterinarian for its animals.

The board voted 5-0 vote to accept the horse with the contingency that the donor will see that all medical requirements are complied with. Absent from the meeting was board member Rebecca Tomerlin.

Kenworthy said the land acquisition committee also suggested placing the animals in a more permanent living quarters that would be more “conducive” than where they are currently being kept in temporary, portable sheds.

“(The animals) need to be in a better place,” Kenworthy said.

In another matter, the Land Acquisition committee has selected The Duneland Group to develop the engineering needed for the new parking lot at Brincka-Cross Gardens. There has been no decision yet on whether the lot will be rectangular-shaped or free form. That will be determined later by Duneland Group, Kenworthy said.

Parks Communications Director Matt Pera said the parking lot should be complete sometime this summer.

Three Steps for Raise the Barn

Officially signing on with Hasse Construction of Munster last month in a construction management contract, not design-build, the board unanimously approved its attorney David Hollenbeck’s suggestion to split the agreement into three segments.

The first, Hollenbeck said, would be to complete architectural drawings, followed by Hasse assisting with plans and specifications for bids and lastly providing oversight and management of the company hired to do the physical construction.

The board voted to expedite the first step by allowing Kenworthy, whose background is in construction, and board president and engineer Rich Hudson to fine-tune the contract with Hasse and then ask the other board members for their nods in a process of about 10 days.

Lenckos has estimated the project will be complete within a year. With $200,000 in donations collected by the Porter County Parks Foundation and $500,000 put up by the parks department, $2 million is being sought from the county council for the barn construction.

The council reacted favorably to the request but, given the size of the request, council members asked Lenckos to speak with the commissioners on a funding strategy. Lenckos said it is likely the commissioners will take up the discussion at their upcoming meeting on May 15, one week before the next council meeting.

Council members were enthusiastic about park department plans to move its offices to the center once it’s completed, freeing up needed space in the county administration building. Lenckos said the center will feature “green” technologies and access to the new Porter Regional Hospital and Rogers Lakewood Park in Valparaiso.

He also said Raise the Barn is needed to increase the capacity of the park’s summer camp programs. Approximately 10,000 have signed up for this year and the center would allow the number to double, Lenckos said.

Total cost for the project is $3 million. The barn will have a traditional barn look and feel and serve as a premier outdoor and adventure education facility.

Kenworthy asked that background checks be performed on workers around the construction site at Sunset Hill Farm due to the number of children enrolled in summer camp programs.

Board member Annetta Jones asked if lighting be improved at Sunset Hill Farm. Lenckos responded there are plans to enhance both lighting and signage.

NIHPA wants communication

Representatives of the Northern Indiana Historical Power Association (NIHPA) which holds their Fall Harvest Festival and Antique Equipment Show at Sunset Hill Farm the last weekend in September asked if the board would renew their lease which expires Dec. 31.

NIHPA President Mike Howton said the board traditionally has renewed the agreement at its December meeting and action is needed by June 30. Hollenbeck said the board will see that a vote is taken at its next meeting on June 7.

Howton said communication between the parks and NIHPA has stalled and asked if someone from the parks could start attending the group’s meetings which convene twice a month at Sunset Hill Farm.

“It’s just an easy way to relay information,” added NIHPA member Nick Misch.

Park Dept. employee Ray Joseph said he could make time to attend some of the meetings.

Lenckos said the issues can be worked out and NIHPA has the “green light” to continue hosting its events at the park for years to come.

“You have a home here,” Lenckos said.

Spring Out To Sunset May 19

Lenckos said the parks department has a packed schedule of events at Sunset Hill for field trips and programming. Coming up is the annual Spring Out to Sunset on Saturday, May 19, from 10-3 p.m. featuring food vendors, music, theater, family fitness, Frisbee dog shows and stunt kites.

Admission is $5 per car.

An advertisement for the event can be seen on a billboard along I-94 near the Porter/Lake County border, Pera said.



Posted 5/4/2012