Tourism backs Indiana Dunes National Park

Chesterton Tribune

The Porter County Convention, Recreation, and Visitor Commission (PCCRVC) has taken a formal position in support of House Bill 1488 and its companion bill, Senate Bill 599, which would re-designate Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore a “National Park.”

The “decision for advocacy was made in light of the Trump administration's opposition to the Lakeshore becoming the Hoosier State's first and America's 61st national park on Wednesday during a U.S. Senate subcommittee,” PCCRVC said in a statement released today. “National Park Service Acting Director P. Daniel Smith told the subcommittee that ‘the National Park Service believes that the current designation is appropriate for the unit [Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore] and in keeping with our efforts to provide consistency in the naming of park units.’”

That “testimonial was made in reference to the Lakeshore’s size and amenities,” PCCRVC noted.

Local Support for National Park Status

Local leaders have already begun rallying in support of the National Park designation.

“The Indiana Dunes attracts 3.6 million visitors annually, which puts the Indiana Dunes as the seventh most popular national park out of the top 11 national parks in the nation,” PCCRVC Executive Director Lorelei Weimer said. “Indiana Dunes is just under Yellowstone National Park in terms of visitation.”

“Daniel Smith's testimony that ‘the term national park be reserved for units that contain a variety of resources and encompass large land or water areas’ is contradictory in that the Gateway Arch of St. Louis was just granted the status of becoming the 60th National Park with only 193 acres,” Weimer noted.

Natalie Johnson, the executive director of Save the Dunes, added, “The Indiana Dunes is nearly three times the size of Hot Springs National Park and twice as large as the National Park of American Samoa. The Indiana Dunes has over 15,000 acres of woodlands, prairies, savannas, bogs, wetlands, beaches and shoreline, and it is the birthplace of ecology. The deciding factor on whether or not a park gets the National Park status should be based on the diversity of the park and its visitation. The Indiana Dunes has a greater variety of plant and animal species than Hawaii, and its visitation numbers speak for themselves. The Indiana Dunes National Park would be Indiana's first national park, and it would be a significant boon to Indiana's tourism and economic development.”

“The Board of Directors of Indiana Dunes Tourism strongly supports the proposed legislation to grant the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore status as a National Park,” PCCRVC President Mitch Peters said. “We believe this designation is long overdue and would be of significant benefit not only to Northwest Indiana but also to the entire Midwest Region. We have long maintained that this natural resource is an environmental treasure, not only for our residents but for the entire country as well as foreign tourists. The number of annual visitors to the park clearly supports our position. We believe that such a resource, utilized by a diverse cross-section of individuals from all over the world, clearly deserves such a designation. We sincerely hope that the United States Senate will be given the opportunity to consider such an important matter.”

U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-1st--who authored H.B. 1488--said, “I remain optimistic that 1488, which is co-sponsored by every Indiana member of Congress and unanimously approved by the House, will become law and our Lakeshore will get the long overdue recognition it deserves and further drive economic activity in our region.”

U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind.--who co-authored S.B. 599 with U.S. Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., said, “I remain hopeful that this legislation, which passed the House of Representatives on a unanimous vote, will be taken up by the Senate,” said U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly. “The Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore is a cherished natural resource in our state, and I believe it deserves the recognition of National Park status.”

“I will continue to work with the National Park Service and other stakeholders to identify a path forward,” Young for his part said.

“The Indiana Dunes is the birthplace of ecology and occupies 15 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline, creating white, sandy beaches in Northwest Indiana,” the PCCRVC concluded. “The dunes were formed when glaciers receded 14,000 years ago, leaving sands that actually sing when you walk on them. Its beaches are placed among the best in the U.S., and the dunes are the top attraction in the State of Indiana, encompassing 15,000 acres of woodlands, prairies, savannas, bogs, wetlands and, of course, sand dunes, which reach heights up to 192 feet. In 2017, a record-breaking 3.6 million people visited the Indiana Dunes State Park and National Lakeshore, ranking the Indiana Dunes just behind Yellowstone in terms of park attendance.”