The concept of creating soccer fields at the former County Home grounds was
kicked around on Thursday as the Porter County Park Board debated what role
it should have in a potential partnership.
Representatives of the Valparaiso Soccer Club, president Stuart Stanfill and
Bryan McFadden, told the board they are in search of land available to put
in three full-size soccer fields so their teams can have some place to play
their games on weekends.
Stanfill said the club, which has about 200 boys and girls participating,
has traditionally played at West Side Park in Valparaiso but playing time
there for VSC and other teams has become scarcer as more are competing for
“We’re not alone in that it is going to be a continuing problem,” Stanfill
As reported in the Tribune earlier this week, Stanfill and McFadden
turned to the Porter County Parks Department asking if they it had land that
could be set aside for sports field development.
Parks Superintendent Walter Lenckos said nothing was available in terms of
land zoned for active use. Lenckos however suggested the former county home
grounds, a 9-acre parcel on Ind. 2 south of Valparaiso, which had been
previously suggested as a location for a soccer field, T-ball field and a
playground with walking trails.
The property is owned by the County Commissioners who on Tuesday took the
VSC’s request of putting in three or four full-size soccer fields under
advisement. County Commissioner President John Evans, R-North, said he would
like to see commitment from the park board before his board votes on the
But the park board voiced its concerns on which party would be responsible
for development costs. Board members Craig Kenworthy and Rebecca Tommerlin
said the board is not in a financial position to carry out an agreement,
especially since the engineering would need to be done on grounds considered
“Is that the best thing to do with that property, to flatten it?” asked
The VSC is “willing to bring cash to the table,” McFadden said, about
$10,000 currently, and plans more fundraising.
Giving his two cents, Board member David Canright said past three-way
partnerships between the board, commissioners and other parties such as the
Calumet Trail and the Zona Wildlife Sanctuary have been “awkward at best,”
although he said he would support the request, saying that the county needs
more space for youth sports fields. He said he would be open to the
Commissioners deeding the land to the county parks.
Lenckos said staff discussions with VSC have not been centered on
engineering and development costs. The only consideration given so far is to
have the park staff maintain the fields. The body which would ultimately
make the call on the engineering tasks would be the County Commissioners.
Kenworthy said there may be flatter land in Center Twp. that the club could
He asked Stanfill and McFadden if VSC would have exclusive rights to the
fields if they were to be a partner in this. The two said the fields would
be open for use by all local soccer clubs but VSC would like to be permitted
to reserve use of the fields for tournament games on a few Saturdays and
Sundays throughout the year from Noon to 5 p.m.
VSC would also like to build its own storage shed and would provide “minor
things” such as its own goals and field striping, McFadden said.
Still citing lack of available funds, the board asked that the parks staff
continue discussions with VSC to come up with a dollar figure that could be
weighed by the board, Commissioners, and possibly the County Council.
Further discussions would need to continue with the Essex Park neighborhood
adjacent to the Home grounds.
“It sounds like we are in favor but there are some ‘buts’ that will have to
be figured out,” board president Rich Hudson said.
Lenckos said one of his department’s goals is to have more parks available
to residents in the southern half of the county. Potential sites are being
sought by the parks’ Land Acquisition and Development Committee.
According to national standards, Lenckos said, Porter County is deficient in
park land by about 500 acres, not including the Dunes State Park and the
“That’s more than two Sunset Hills,” he said.
From the audience, Charlotte Read of Liberty Twp. said the grounds are
connected to the Salt Creek Water Shed and implored the board that if a
partnership is agreed to, the group would take steps to preserve the
700 N. Residence
In other action Thursday, the board split 4-2 to approve a parks staff
member occupying the residence at the entrance to the Sunset Hill Farm
campground, near CR 700 N., from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31 next year.
Lenckos said future plans for the residence involve housing counselors for
Sunset Hill Farm’s spring and summer camps and to watch over the campground
if it is used to accommodate campers when the sites at the Dunes State Park
and National Lakeshore fill up on the weekends.
Lenckos said the parks department is not to the point where it is ready for
counselors to stay in the residence next summer, but possibly for 2014.
Lenckos said the camps for youth at Sunset Hill Farm are growing in the
spring and fall months.
The staff person who would occupy the residency in 2013 is to keep the place
in good condition and be present for events.
Voting against the measure were board members Annetta Jones and Kenworthy.
Jones said the residence could be used for educational programs instead
since it comes with a kitchen and a stove. Jones, a county extension
educator, gives cooking and canning lessons at the Sunset Hill Farm
interpretive center, which currently lacks a stove.
Lenckos said he knows of a stove that could be moved into the center for the
Raise the Barn
At the start of the meeting, Hudson announced that a presentation and
discussion on the design for the Raise the Barn activity center at Sunset
Hill Farm would be tabled until the board’s next meeting in November.
This came as surprise to Kenworthy, who thought the project should be kept
Tommerlin said the development committee is waiting to discuss funding
matters with the parks’ County Council liaisons Jeremy Rivas and Jim Polarek
before advancing the project.
Parents as Teachers Executive of Porter Director Jill Stricker shared with
the board a report on how many families in the organization are
participating in programs taking place at Sunset Hill Farm.
The organization helps families with child development for children up to
five years of age and helps prepare them for school. Programs at Sunset Hill
Farm through the organization include preschool camps and Springtime on the
Farm, teaching children about caring for farm animals. Another popular
program mentioned was the Tot Storybook Trails.
Parents as Teachers will continue the programs under a Memorandum of
Understanding to be finalized at the November meeting.
Stricker said Parents as Teachers started in Duneland and its client base
now extends to the entire county, with many from South Haven, Kouts and a
few from Westville.
“Is there any way we can help you?” asked Kenworthy.
“You are already doing so,” replied Stricker.
she was glad to see the pond at Brookdale Park near CR 900N in Liberty Twp.
open to public use. The park hosted GoFishin last weekend, marking the first
activity at Brookdale. About a dozen children turned out to enjoy an
afternoon of fishing.