The Porter County Parks and Recreation board held a special meeting last
week to approve leases for next year and move forward with development of a
new park outside of Kouts on the west side of Ind. 49.
Out of three firms considered by the Park Department’s Land Acquisition and
Development Committee, the board voted unanimously last Monday to select a
proposal from Ratio Construction, based in Indianapolis.
Ratio will provide master planning services on the 63.5 acre parcel just
about a mile north of Kouts and currently in the process of being purchased
by the Park Board for $600,000.
Under the proposal submitted by Ratio, possible features are athletic
fields, buffer yards, a pedestrian trail system, a stormwater management
system, non-programmed open space, and connections to surrounding
The first task will be to have a “kickoff” meeting with parks staff to
determine the scope and the desired goals.
After that, Ratio will develop three conceptual sketches based on site
analysis done by the Duneland Group and input from parks staff, park board
Ratio will also determine the construction costs and help prepare for a
public open house displaying the possible designs, as well as build a
website for the project.
Approximately $22,000 will be paid to Ratio for its work out of $60,000 the
parks department has remaining in its acquisition funds.
Parks Planner Ray Joseph said all the “heavy lifting” will be done in-house
including analyses, inventories, assembling documents and arranging public
meetings and open houses.
In another motion related to the design of the new south county park, the
board voted to enter into an agreement with the Duneland Group for
engineering services at the same hourly rate they receive for projects with
the County Planning Commission and also for the acquisition of landscaping
materials not to exceed $37,000.
Parks Superintendent Walter Lenckos said using the Duneland Group will help
keep costs down. He said Ratio will begin its work in January. Landscaping
could be done in the spring, with the potential of having an athletic field
ready by the end of 2014.
A steering committee has also formed to help set goals for the park and
formulate ideas for fundraising.
The list of committee members includes Park Board member Craig Kenworthy,
East Porter County Schools Superintendent Rod Gardin, Porter Township
Schools Superintendent Stacey Schmidt, Northwest Indiana Regional
Development Authority Executive Director Bill Hanna, Good Hospital Services
founder Jeff Good, Valparaiso University Asst. Athletic Director for
Business Operations Stephen Anthony, Valpo Americans Baseball Coach John
McQuestion, Slammers baseball coach Don Velsing, Triple Crown girls softball
coach Kevin Bolen, Kouts High School girls softball coach Liz Chatwell,
Kouts Town Council member Tim Jones, Porter County Sports Cabinet member
Mark Hoffman, Porter County South Commissioner Laura Blaney and County
Council member Jim Polarek.
Exhibit B includes
Also meeting with board approval was a lease agreement with the Northern
Indiana Historical Power Association, which goes under the name “Exhibit B,”
that sets up a formal exchange of services NIHPA will provide for being
allowed to use the buildings at Sunset Hill Farm County Park for equipment
NIHPA President Nick Misch and other members have expressed an interest in
expanding their partnership opportunities with the park department over the
past year and came up with a new list of services they are willing to
provide under Exhibit B, eight in all:
-- Form a “Museum Committee” charged with creating a museum in Sunset Hill
Farm’s chicken coop. The committee will meet with Parks staff to assess
building, determine modifications to building, mission of the exhibit,
layout, and funding.
-- Repair or replace two south main doors of the chicken coop with new
locks, hinges, and wood as needed.
-- Repair or replace the two main sliding doors, along with the main door
located on the granary.
-- Repair leaking roof over the far east building, known as the “NIHPA shop”
with Professional Grade roof sealant.
-- Securing the sawmill by removing the saw blade when the mill is not in
use. Openings will be gated to prevent the public from entering the sawmill.
-- Raise grain for animal livestock at Sunset Hill Farm. The campground
field used for Fall Harvest Festival will be cut and baled for hay and the
hay will be given to Porter County Parks for animal livestock.
-- Notify parks staff possible Plow or Harvest Day demonstrations at the
earliest possible time to allow advertisement and planning for educational
-- Continue to assist the park department with maintenance of the grounds,
buildings, provide help, and support during special events. The support will
include manpower, equipment, materials and tools.
The lease is good for one-year and Misch has talked about expanding the
lease to a longer term.
Park board members also renewed a lease with the non-profit Porter County
Parks Foundation under the same conditions as the current agreement, giving
$1 per year for use of land at Sunset Hill Farm. Lenckos said the board and
Foundation have shown interest in expanding their partnership, moving
forward with new joint projects.
Ponies and bees
In animal news, Sunset Hill Farm’s four-legged resident Mr. Tickles, a
hackney pony, will be getting the gift of friendship for Christmas.
“Horses are highly social herd animals and don’t do well by themselves so we
are finding (Mr. Tickles) a companion,” said Lenckos.
Her name is Sedona, also a pony, who belongs to one of the members of the
park department’s new farm animal committee, Jamie Huss. Huss, an assistant
director with the Washington Park Zoo in Michigan City, will let the parks
department foster Sedona at Sunset Hill Farm with Mr. Tickles until April 1.
Lenckos said the farm animal committee will work with the park board in
bringing more animal specimens to Sunset Hill Farm, making sure the parks
department can provide the right care and have the funding for essential
items, such as feed for the animals.
The goal is to teach children about farming and how life on a farm used to
be years ago. Currently the park only has Mr. Tickles and a few chickens.
In a related matter, a memorandum of understanding was agreed to with R&M
Apiary to add beekeeping to the list of programs at Sunset Hill Farm later
next year. Lenckos said there will be two different programs for adults and
the bees will be far enough away from the buildings and garden that they
will not pose a threat.
But kids programs are not being left off the radar. An MOU was also approved
to continue the Parents as Teachers program, which includes plans for a
natural playground area near the children’s garden at Sunset Hill Farm.
The Children’s Garden where the former playground used to be is set to be
redesigned by Hitchcock Design Group of Chicago. The park board hired
Hitchcock to do the work not to exceed $20,000.