Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore is a crown jewel at the apex of our Region's quality of life and a major economic foundation for tourism.
We've long argued anything that can enhance the social and economic benefit of the Dunes can and should be pursued.
It's why an effort by U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly and U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, both Indiana Democrats, makes so much sense.
The federal legislators recently introduced a bill that would give the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore full status as the 60th national park of the United States.
Donnelly and Visclosky argue the status would give our lakeshore greater recognition and help draw more visitors to the natural beauty of the dunes.
Greater recognition also could mean more resources for this Region natural wonder while boosting the economy.
"And by placing it in the same category as the other jewels of the National Park System, we hope it will attract more visitors to explore and enjoy all of the recreational activities the dunes offer...," Donnelly said.
We're lucky to have the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, which already is under the auspices of the National Park System.
The dunes drew an estimated 1.6 million visitors to the Region in 2015, park service reports show. Those visitors spent an estimated $64.9 million in the park’s “gateway communities.”
Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore tourism is credited with sustaining 913 jobs and generating $34.6 million in labor income — the salaries of anyone who served park visitors.
Imagine the benefits of growing this potential.
Our nation's inventory of national parks operates as a vacation checklist for countless individuals and families throughout the country. It's the go-to resource for vacationers looking to get away and experience national treasures.
Those already living in the Region know the Dunes' intoxicating beauty and capacity for environmental education.
It deserves to be on the official national park list so the entire nation can know it, too.