behavior, and excessive littering at the State and National parks and Porter
Beach is prompting some locals to take action as Park officials and local
police grapple with an apparent influx of visitors from Illinois.
of lakefront remain closed to the public per the city park district’s
COVID-19 response plan, though a phased reopening of other park facilities
and photographer Amanda Rose spent her Friday morning picking up trash at
the Indiana Dunes State Park last week after she was alarmed to see an
unusual amount of littering and disrespect for the dunes during a photo
Tribune reached out to Rose after she said in a June 4 Facebook post
that her session that day was the first time she ever felt unsafe while
working on the beach, and many people she saw “treated the beach like a
Rose reported she
and a friend stuffed six large trash bags in a little over an hour of
clean-up Friday morning. They started at the State Park’s historic pavilion,
then walked down to Porter Beach and back.
“Garbage cans were
either overflowing or barely used at all--garbage was just left where they
were sitting. The Porter Beach area was completely trashed. Numerous empty
cases of beer, bottles strewn all over the sand, and thrown into the dune
grass,” Rose said.
Rose said that in
her two-hour photo session, no DNR officers were around to police the
beachgoers, some of which were young adults chugging beer, smoking
marijuana, and playing beer pong. “The total disrespect for the beach was
defeating,” she said.
photographer, Chesterton resident Stefanie Fisher reported a similar
experience in two visits she made last week. Fisher said she spent 35
minutes finding a parking spot on a Tuesday, and more than half the cars in
the lot had Illinois license plates.
“It was so
incredibly packed there. More packed than I’ve ever seen in it my entire
life living in Chesterton and Northwest Indiana,” Fisher said. “It was
almost impossible to use the beach because it was so packed with people with
tents and canopies.”
Fisher said the
behavior and crowds are unlike anything she’s seen in her 17 years of living
in Chesterton and frequenting the beaches for both work and fun. “There were
literally people there with full beer pong tables playing beer pong. There
was a group of people stabbing their beer cans and doing shotguns and
screaming, hooting, hollering, and cussing and girls flashing and just being
crude,” Fisher said. “Everywhere you looked, there was garbage,” she added.
“I have literally
never seen that many people at Porter Beach, and I’ve definitely never seen
people just openly drinking alcoholic beverages and playing beer pong. It
was a shock. I didn’t even know what to say to my photo session clients,”
Fisher said she may
not use Porter Beach again this year after her experience, though it’s one
of her favorite spots. “The beach should be somewhere where everybody can go
and enjoy it,” she said.
National Park Superintendent Paul Labovitz confirmed crowds are out of the
ordinary in a phone call with the Tribune.
“We’re having the
most interesting summer we’ve had in years, and it’s not even summer yet.
We’ve been inundated with crowds,” Labovitz said. “Every day the weather has
been nice and it’s a good beach day--doesn’t matter if its Tuesday or
Wednesday--if you get a warm day--it’s like a fourth of July weekend.”
tensions are high and people are eager to get out now that the weather has
turned and some COVID-19 prevention efforts are being eased. “It’s sort of a
perfect storm where people are discovering how amazing Indiana’s beaches
are, but a percentage of those people who are not from Indiana are
misbehaving,” he added.
neither the National Park Service or the State Park have the resources to be
heavy-handed in enforcing beach rules in these crowds, but NPS appreciates
help from local, county, and state police. “We’re working with law
enforcement to squash it so the Dunes can remain a family friendly
destination, which it mostly is,” Labovitz said. “It’s kind of all hands on
deck because we’re all interested in maintaining the quality that residents
and visitors are used to.”
Labovitz said the
Park doesn’t collect month-by-month data on how many out-of-state visitors
come in, but he’s hearing anecdotal reports that visitors from Illinois are
being ticketed most and causing problems. “Our typical Indiana Dunes
clientele and residents take care of the place,” he said.
A call to the State
Park office was not returned by deadline today.
Porter Police Chief
Jamie Spanier reported at Tuesday’s Porter Town Council meeting that he had
four officers working Porter Beach Monday, and it was barely enough. Spanier
was also recently approved for extra spending on overtime, mainly for beach
and beach parking patrols.
“We’re doing the
best we can, and all we can do is try,” Spanier told the Council Tuesday. He
also commended the National Park for its efforts and the State Park for
collaborating with Porter to combat long-standing parking issues on Ind. 49.
After her June 4
Facebook post garnered positive response from friends and acquaintances,
Rose set up a Facebook fundraiser for Save the Dunes that went somewhat
viral--it garnered hundreds of comments and over 2,200 shares and has raised
over $1,200 as of deadline today. Rose also reported she was invited to meet
with Save the Dunes to brainstorm ideas.
visitors to leave no trace when leaving the beach. “I walk the beaches
almost every day and take a bag with me to pick up what I can on the way
back. I advise everyone that visits the parks to do their part, bring a bag,
pick it up, and pack it out,” she said.
Rose says she
teaches her children to pick up anything within five feet of their blankets
on the beach, even if it’s not theirs. “Unfortunately, there will always be
people who disrespect our beautiful beaches. We can try to make up for that
by doing what we can,” she said. “If we all did our part it would go a long
interested, the Crazy Legs Race Series is hosting its next Beach Clean-up on
Saturday, June 27 from 8 to 10 a.m. starting at the State Park Pavilion.
Participants will be provided trash bags and gloves and are asked to
practice social distancing.