Chesterton Tribune                                                                                   Adv.

Dunelanders can voice their vision for Dunes National Lakeshore in online survey

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By KEVIN NEVERS

Dunelanders now have the perfect opportunity to make their feelings known about the future of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.

And it’s as easy as going on line.

Through March the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA)—with 330,000 members, the nation’s largest non-profit advocate of America’s national parks—is asking the friends of the National Lakeshore to participate in the survey at www.npca.org/midwest/dunes

The goal of the project, called “National Park, Regional Treasure,” is to cull from the public ideas “on ways to improve the visitor experience, better connect the park to surrounding communities and the Chicago area, and recommendations to ensure Indiana Dunes’ future as an iconic national park,” NPCA said in a statement released earlier this week.

“This national park is one of the treasures in the Great Lakes region, and a critical resource for the people of Northwest Indiana and the Chicago area,” NPCA Midwest Regional Director Lynn McClure said. “We want to connect a new generation of people to this park. That’s how parks thrive.”

Also participating in the project is the Eppley Institute for Parks and Public Lands at Indiana University—which brings to the table a wealth of technical expertise in the study of recreation and park management—and the Field Museum of Chicago, whose scientists pursue much of their research in the national parks. Funding for the project was provided by the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation and by many of NPCA’s members.

Data from the surveys will later be collected and used as the basis for what the NPCA is calling a “strategic plan.” That plan, the statement said, unlike the National Lakeshore’s General Management Plan or its Comprehensive Interpretive Plan—the latter now in the early stages of being revised—will focus specifically “on identifying park challenges and developing solutions with the help of park partners, supporters, community residents, and visitors.”

“The project team will be looking at many different aspects of the park including how visitors’ experiences can be improved, how the park’s unique resources can be preserved amid pressure from surrounding development, and how to inspire a new generation of park supporters to use and care for the park,” the statement said.

How It Got Started

McClure told the Chesterton Tribune on Thursday that the project had its inception at a meeting in August 2008 with Save the Dunes Council, other local stakeholders, and Superintendent Constantine Dillon, at that point on the job at the National Lakeshore for less than a year. “I wanted to hear from (Dillon) what the park is facing over the next 10 years and open a channel of communication,” McClure said. “So I asked Tom Anderson of the Save the Dunes to co-host a meeting.”

After “half a day of good discussion, and some heated discussion,” McClure said, she returned to Chicago with the germ of the idea for National Park, Regional Treasure. “It was a big eye opener in Illinois that the National Lakeshore might be in need of more support, more attention.”

McClure subsequently approached the Donnelley Foundation—which had never previously funded work focused on the National Lakeshore—as well as the NPCA members themselves across the U.S. “We put out the call to NPCA donors and members to help fund the project and got checks from $5 to $500 from Pennsylvania, Missouri, California, from people all over the country who haven’t visited the National Lakeshore for years but want to be reconnected to it.”

McClure hastened to add that the National Lakeshore is blessed with many fervent local supporters “but it wouldn’t hurt to add more.”

“I do understand the fierce desire of the park’s local supporters to protect the National Lakeshore,” McClure said. “We want to find the other people outside Northwest Indiana who also want to go to bat for the park. I don’t think they’ve been capitalized on.”

Both Dillon and the National Park Service’s Midwest Regional Office support the project, McClure noted. “They want to participate and they want to implement as much as possible from the strategic plan,” she said. “If we find things in need of better funding, they need our members’ voices to talk to Congress.”

Save the Dunes

Save the Dunes Executive Director Tom Anderson also supports the project. “This is an opportunity for people to have an impact on the future of the National Lakeshore,” he told the Tribune. “I recognize that the National Park Service doesn’t have to follow the plan but this is a chance to expand awareness of park issues beyond our community, even beyond the state line. It connects to a national organization and we’ve been a long-time partner of the NPCA and we look forward to the planning process.”

“Water quality, beach-sand erosion, invasive species, and the Chellberg Farm are some of the issues we expect to bring up when we assist NPCA with the plan,” Anderson noted. “We need to protect the reason why the park was set aside.”

On the other hand, Anderson did caution, “if it’s a choice between protecting natural resources and making it easier to get to the beaches, we’ll pick natural resources every time.”

NPS

National Lakeshore spokesperson Lynda Lancaster for her part reiterated the National Park Service’s support of the project. “The more input, the better,” she said. “Everyone’s voice is significant, and all voices are given the same consideration.”

 

Posted 1/29/2010

 

 

 

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