For the purpose of
public safety, the National Park Service announced on Thursday that Mount
Baldy, its parking lot, trail, and beach in front of the dune will remain
closed to all vehicular and pedestrian access as scientists investigate
what’s causing holes to form inside the dune.
The NPS said in a
press release that despite the use of ground penetrating radar, and data
gathering at two additional holes that were located since last July,
scientists still don’t know why they have appeared at Mt. Baldy in Indiana
Dunes National Lakeshore.
“Mount. Baldy is
one of the most visited sites in the national lakeshore, attracting
thousands of visitors each year” said Acting Superintendent Garry Traynham.
“But the continued development of these holes in the dune surface poses a
serious risk to the public. Our first obligation must be to the welfare of
our visitors who are here for an enjoyable outing.”
radar studies by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), have identified
a large number of anomalies below the dune’s surface, at least 66, but
analysis by scientists from the National Park Service, Indiana University
and the Indiana Geological Survey have not yielded answers on how these
holes form. One such hole, up to 11 feet deep, nearly cost a 6-year old
Illinois boy his life last summer at the National Lakeshore’s most popular
Mt. Baldy has been
closed since the incident occured on June 12, 2013.
The two additional
holes and a number of depressions have been found during the ongoing
investigation and continued monitoring of the dune. Scientists report that
the holes are short-lived, remaining open for less than 24 hours before
collapsing and filling in naturally with surrounding sand.
Bruce Rowe had told the Chesterton Tribune earlier this month that
there are a lot of objects under the sand that could be causing the
anomalies such as old pop cans or a fence line but they are unidentifiable
at this point.
Scientists are now
preparing for a more comprehensive investigation of the dune this summer.
This study will include mapping of openings, depressions, and anomalous
features, the use of multispectral Ground-Penetrating Radar (GPR) and coring
to develop a better understanding of the overall internal architecture of
the dune, and detailed GPR and coring of some of the anomalies identified in
the EPA report.
During the research
work, the park’s resource managers will continue planting marram grass on
portions of Mt. Baldy where the native dune grass used to grow. The
extensive root system of the grass holds sand in place and may also help
prevent holes from opening up on the dune’s surface.
All other beach
access areas within the National Lakeshore are currently open and visitors
are asked to stay on the established trails to prevent erosion and resource
and to view the EPA’s Geophysical Survey Report, a Core Study, photos,
video, and graphics on the Mount Baldy research, go to