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
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 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
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
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
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.