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Guest Commentary: A 100 car parking lot at Porter Beach is a bad idea

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Guest Commentary: A 100 car parking lot at Porter Beach is a bad idea

By James Morsch

By now, readers of this paper are aware of the Environmental Assessment issued by Dunes National Lakeshore Superintendent Constantine Dillon and his staff proposing to build a 100-car lot in Porter Beach. The Report is surprising on a number of levels. For example, the 100-car lot is the most environmentally disruptive alternative considered and yet is the alternative being proposed by Dillon even though more environmentally benign and less costly alternatives are available to address the drainage and traffic issues created by the poorly engineered restrooms and poorly maintained parking lots and pedestrian walkways. The Report claims that construction of the new 100-car lot will improve traffic in Porter Beach while bringing in more cars to the area. This is quite a head-scratcher to those of us who live in Porter Beach and witness the search for open parking spaces on busy summer weekends by visitors from near and far. You would think that the National Lakeshore would have at least conducted a traffic or visitor study to explain why more cars leads to less traffic but the Report concedes no such study was conducted.

What is most surprising of all is Dillon’s flip-flop on building such a large lot in Porter Beach. Interviewed by this paper on August 11, 2011, Dillon said the National Lakeshore does not believe that the solution to traffic issues in Porter Beach is to build big lots. “You do not want to build giant parking lots that you only need a few weekends a year. If you do, they’ll be empty 99 percent of the time.” Dillon went on to emphasize that construction of any kind in the sensitive dunes environment of Porter Beach is problematic, saying, “You don’t want to make the problem worse.” Dillon’s staff who attended the scoping meeting held with the public on June 28, 2012 stressed the same point and, when asked, stated that the proposed plan for Porter Beach “did not contemplate new parking lots.”

I am not sure what happened to all of these concerns because they are either ignored or completely downplayed in the Report. Perhaps Dillon wants to push through one last signature project before he leaves the National Lakeshore job this summer or perhaps his rocky relationship with the Porter Town Council explains his change of heart. But I can tell you this, building a 100-car lot will disturb an ecologically sensitive area, create additional erosion problems, and leave us with worse traffic problems than we already have. Dillon will not be here to suffer the consequences, but we will be.

 

 

 

Posted 8/2/2013