The recent proposal to use acreage at Porter County’s Sunset Hill Farm Park
for the county’s animal shelter is a wrong headed approach to addressing the
county’s need for additional shelter space.
The effort to establish Sunset Hill Farm Park was a long and arduous one
that saw citizens from all over the county, from both political parties and
from many volunteer organizations, work together to ensure that Col. and
Elizabeth Murray’s vision of preserving a rural landscape for generations to
come was brought to fruition.
Democrats, Republicans, the League of Women Voters (of which Elizabeth
‘Bips’ Murray was an active member) and many preservation-minded citizens
worked to raise the funds to protect the property and promote establishment
of a County Park Board to oversee the county’s first steps in forming a park
The land on which the animal shelter is proposed is owned by the Porter
County Parks Foundation, which has raised funds for the park and has donated
acreage as ‘matching funds’ for grants to improve the park. I am hopeful the
Parks Foundation will decline to allow the land to be misused in this way.
Parks are a Refuge
Look up park in any dictionary and find “Park: n. 1. a public area of
land, usually in a natural state, having facilities for recreation.”
Construction of an animal shelter in this park would be an abdication of our
county government’s responsibility to protect this land as a park.
The park is used by cross-country teams and running clubs, hosts children’s
nature programs and adult fitness and art classes and provides walking and
running trails for the public. Mowed pathways between fields tilled by the
Northern Indiana Historical Power Association, or maintained as open
meadows, allow walkers to enjoy birds and wildlife while walking the network
of paths. Old fence lines are emphasized by native plant and wildflower
The open areas play host throughout the seasons to many festivals. The area
south of the proposed animal shelter site offers a wide open meadow
experience, while the trees nearer the Northeast corner screen the view of
modern development at the corner of Hwy. 6 and Meridian Rd.
Destruction of those trees, and construction in that view line would
entirely destroy the open green space feel of the main entry area of the
park. This would be a loss that could not be regained.
An animal shelter, with a large structure, parking lot, daily traffic of
both animal control trucks and animal adoptee’s cars, outdoor animal pens,
animal waste and noise, is not compatible with the park’s original goal and
main purpose: to provide residents with a place of quiet contemplation,
recreation and enjoyment of the farm setting, open meadows, wooded trails,
and scenic views.
The additional traffic and noise generated by an animal shelter would not
benefit the neighboring residents or the drivers who must use the already
busy intersection daily.
The suggestion to put an animal shelter inside the park has been cloaked as
a way to save money.
Proponents would have us believe the county can’t move forward with
improving the current animal shelter or build a new one without this
sacrifice of park land. This is an absolute falsehood. The animal shelter
could be expanded on the current site, there is land available where the old
County Home once stood, though cooperation from the city of Valparaiso would
Recognizing that high visibility of the shelter would benefit the animals
seeking homes, there are other open sites near major crossroads in the
county which could be considered.
While it is unfortunate that the Lakeshore PAWS group withdrew from a
cooperative agreement to help build and run an animal shelter, the county
has the skilled staff and resources necessary to run a shelter and has done
so for decades. The problem of needing more funding is not going to be
‘cured’ by using county park land to build a new facility. The funding
issues will remain.
An animal shelter in this location would degrade the pastoral nature of the
park, destroy a beautiful stand of trees and ruin the viewscape. In short it
would be a major detriment to the overall character of the park.
Park land must not be sacrificed as a short term solution to the longer term
problem of the funding of county services.
Citizens should be able to feel secure in the knowledge that designated park
land will remain park land.