The Polar Vortex brutalized Duneland in all sorts of ways: lost
productivity, frozen pipes, potholes.
Here’s one more way: damage to the dunes along Lakefront Drive in the Town
of Beverly Shores, caused by the payloader which the town’s contractor was
forced to use to clear snow from the road.
Beverly Shores Town Council President Geof Benson told the Chesterton
Tribune that both residents and the National Park Service (NPS) were
clamoring for the opening of Lakeshore Drive last week, in the wake of the
Polar Vortex’s tender mercies.
But the town’s contractor, D & M Excavating of Michigan City, found its
regular plows no match for Lakefront Drive. Two of them failed, whether due
to mechanical problems or simply to the roadway’s impassability, Benson was
unable to say. D & M accordingly used a payloader to move the snow and in
the process disturbed portions of the dunes.
Benson noted that the Town of Beverly Shores owns the 60-foot public
right-of-way which is Lakefront Drive, 30 feet on either side of the center
line. Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, on the other hand, owns the
beachfront north of Lakefront Drive, beginning where the right-of-way ends.
A payloader is “not a delicate instrument,” Benson said. “But it was a snow
emergency, the whole road was closed by drifting, and they couldn’t get
plows through. The only choice was a payloader. Did we have the right to do
this? Yes. Was it the most sensitive way of doing it? No. It was a state of
emergency, though, and hopefully if there was damage it will recover. These
were extraordinary circumstances.”
“It’s a foredune,” Benson added. “It’s used to abuse and recovery. Learning
to live with the lake and sand, sometimes it’s give and take.”
Today NPS spokesman Bruce Rowe told the Tribune that the assessment
of the damage is ongoing. But officials have determined that the payloader
left tire tracks in the dunes, did some gouging thereof, and in places
damaged curbing as well.
“Most of the damage was where north-south roads meet Lakefront Drive,” Rowe
said. And “it does need to be restored and repaired. But we are working with
the town and we don’t see it as a major issue by any means.”
Rowe did say that “It’s too early in the assessment” to make any kind of a
dollar estimate of the damage.
“We understand it happened during the extraordinary snow event,” Rowe said.
“It’s certainly not an ecological disaster. It can be restored. And we’re
working with the town.”