Chesterton Tribune



Porter Police: Weekend beach traffic signals 'long, bad summer'

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“It’s going to be a long, bad summer” for beach traffic in Porter with Chicago beaches closed indefinitely due to COVID-19, according to Porter Police Chief Jamie Spanier.

Spanier reported traffic at the Indiana Dunes State and National parks and Porter Beach this past weekend for Memorial Day was about the same level of traffic Duneland sees each year for its lakefront fireworks celebration.

Spanier said it’s no wonder that the issue of beach visitors, many from out of state, parking on the side of main roads like Waverly and Ind. 49 got out of hand quickly this weekend, given that fireworks traffic takes officers from Porter, Chesterton, and Burns Harbor working together all night to manage at each July on fireworks night.

Council member Erik Wagner, who lives just off of Ind. 49 on N. Bailey, said Saturday was some of the worst traffic and congestion he’d ever seen, with as many as 200 cars parked in his neighborhood. “My yard was completely trashed.”

The Council should consider three goals in finding a solution to the congestion, according to Porter Beach resident and Plan Commission member Rob Albrecht-Mallinger, who spoke during the public comment period at Tuesday’s Town Council meeting.

Albrecht-Mallinger said the Town should (1) “take whatever steps necessary” to curb illegal parking on the sides of Waverly, Wabash, and Ind. 49, (2) work to mitigate excessive traffic and congestion on local roads, and (3) consider how the ongoing problems affect Porter’s image.

Albrecht-Mallinger said he doesn’t begrudge any Town or Parks staff or even out-of-area visitors, but just wants a solution. “I’m not complaining about the Porter PD. They’ve been very responsive and faced situations the last couple weeks that I certainly wouldn’t want to face,” he said. Building Commissioner Michael Barry and Town Council member David Phillips, who lives in the problem area, on Waverly, have been in talks with the State Park and the National Park Service about ways to relieve the congestion, and Albrecht-Mallinger clarified that he appreciates that and all efforts by park rangers and maintenance staff.

Albrecht-Mallinger said, though, that parking and traffic issues are not just safety concerns, but also issues that can lower property values in Porter and damage Porter’s image as a destination and good place to live: “We have an asset here, and it’s being tarnished.”

Porter resident Jennifer Klug seconded Albrecht-Mallinger’s concerns about congestion and suggested someone should reach out to Chicago/Illinois leadership about a collaborative way to keep Illinois residents from flocking to Duneland’s beaches. People traveling across state lines poses a public health risk just as Chicago beaches opening in a limited capacity would, Klug said.

Spanier reported this weekend, the PPD had a high volume of calls from in Town, which kept pulling officers away from the problem area at the beach. “When you only have two or three people working, and you have to handle calls in Town, that makes it rough,” he added.

The only way to keep beach traffic and parking under control would be to hire “three or four more guys”, which isn’t possible right now due to budget constraints, according to Spanier. “It’s going to be a long bad summer,” he said. “We’ll do the best we can with what we have, but really the only way to take care of it is to do some major traffic control, and we’re talking a lot more people.”


Posted 5/28/2020




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