The Porter County Parks and Recreation Board gave the nod Thursday to the
next step in bringing farm animals to Sunset Hill Farm County Park.
In the next year, the barns could see about a dozen chickens, a cow and a
couple of horses, giving the park an appearance of a real farm, along with
expanded educational programming.
The concept of introducing live animals stems from the success of the park’s
“Feeding Time” program last year featuring four-legged resident Tickle
Tickle, a miniature horse, and a few Nubian goats.
A committee was formed late last year headed by Valparaiso veterinarian Dr.
Larry McAfee and others who have professional experience working with
animals to guide the parks department on ways it could bring more animals to
McAfee was in attendance Thursday and told the board this “will be an asset”
to the park systems’ teaching children about the ongoing life cycle and the
care of animals.
“There’s nothing like this in Northwest Indiana,” McAfee said.
Parks Superintendent Walter Lenckos emphasized the animals would serve a
need for historical education in the region as well as showing the human
connection to the natural environment.
Lenckos presented the board with a breakdown of other animals that could be
brought to the farm over the next five years and the maximum costs to
purchase and care for them. The first two years could cost about $15,000
with the addition of turkeys, swans, ducks and rabbits.
Goats and sheep would join in the third year according to the plan, donkeys
and pigs the fourth year, and llamas in the fifth.
Taking into consideration overhead, buildings and contingency, the overall
costs could reach $42,000 the first year and $54,000 by the fifth. However,
Lenckos said the expected costs could be lower because some of the animals
and supplies could be donated, Lenckos said.
Given the success of the previous animal programs, Lenckos said the revenue
generated from programming fees and donations should be enough to cover the
costs of acquiring and caring for the animals.
Rental packages for events like birthday parties could also be charged extra
to include visits to the animals, he said. Other revenue possibilities are
sponsorships and an “adopt-a-pet” program.
To maintain the authenticity of a working farm, animals may be sold at the
end of the season.
With the earnings, more part-time staff can be hired to care for the animals
and new barns or sheds could be built on the property after the second year
for the goats, sheep and additional animals.
Lenckos said the Farm Animal committee is considering building to the
northeast of the current storage sheds and negotiations will need to take
place with the Porter County Parks Foundation, which owns a section of that
area, and the Northern Indiana Historical Power Association, which uses that
space for its antique tractor shows.
To expand relations with the community, board member David Canright
suggested the park could be a place for 4-H members to keep their animals.
Also, McAfee said the committee is working to make sure procedures are in
place to prevent zoonotic diseases, which can be transferred from animals to
“To me this is the most important issue going forward,” McAfee said.
Lenckos said the parks department will work with the United States
Department of Agriculture and the Indiana Board of Health to prevent
Later in the meeting, Porter County Parks Foundation President David Yeager
said that his organization feels a suitable barn is needed to house the
animals and is looking to use a restricted fund to help the parks department
Yeager also said the Foundation would suggest using the section it owns at
the farm as a pasture where animals can graze. He said that this would
require a maintenance plan from the parks department.
Ultimately, the board voted in favor of the staff moving forward with the
first phase and will discuss costs and funding at its next meeting.
In other matters, Parks Planner Ray Joseph presented the board and the
audience with the most recent concepts of a new trail network at Brincka-Cross
Joseph has been working with SEH Inc. consultants on the designs, deciding
what kind of trails are best for the different sections of the park.
Asphalt, concrete or paver trails would be used around the entrance and
garden area. The section of the woods closer to the house and gardens may
consist of aggregate limestone or stabilized earth while the woodland areas
farther to the north could have earth or woodchip trails, he said.
The plans for trails in the wetland areas show the use of culvert crossings
and timber boardwalks in character with the property, Joseph added.
A detailed presentation is expected to be given by SEH at the board’s May
meeting that could be held at Brincka-Cross.
Joseph said that because the work is being funded with grant money from the
Lake Michigan Coastal Program, the parks department will need to have the
plans approved by summer to follow the given timeline.
The plans are also being reviewed by the Indiana Department of Natural
Resources, Joseph said.
“We have multiple people checking to make sure these are acceptable,” he
The trail network will be 1.6 miles on roughly 36 acres.
* Sign up for Camp FUNset will kick off on Saturday, April 19, at
Sunset Hill Farm from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Those who sign up at that time will
receive a $5 discount. Lenckos said he expects the camps to fill up quickly
like last year.
* Lenckos said the Town of Porter’s Park and Recreation Department has
reached out to the County Parks Department about delivering some of the
programs at Hawthorne Park. The town is hoping to generate more rentals of
their facilities by having the County Parks run their programs, Lenckos
* Park board member Craig Kenworthy said there will be public
information sessions for the new “south county” park located approximately
one mile north of Kouts on Indiana 49. Two will be held for the neighbors on
April 28, the first in the morning at Open Door Fellowship Church on Baums
Bridge Road in Kouts and the other at the Porter County Expo Center at 7
p.m. Kenworthy said there is a larger public presentation planned for
sometime in May which will be held in the Morgan Twp. School cafeteria.
* The Parks Foundation is looking into getting a new sign for Sunset
Hill Farm that would replace the one facing U.S. 6. Yeager said the sign
should complement the nature, environment and purpose of Sunset Hill Farm.
* Rain or shine, or maybe snow given this batch of lasting winter
weather, the Parks Department will host the Spring Out to Sunset event on
Saturday, May 17. Admission will be $5 per car.
* The board welcomed its newest member Tom Schnabel who is also the
music director for the Duneland Schools. Schnabel is permanently filling in
for member Ruth Jarnecke who resigned in February.