Chesterton Tribune



Numbers still up since name change at Indiana Dunes National Park

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Numbers are up since the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore became the 61st national park in the U.S. earlier this year

July is usually the business month at the Dunes, but visitation to both the Dunes National and State parks and park social media is higher than usual, according to the staff report given at Thursday’s Indiana Dunes Tourism Board meeting.

In each of the six days preceding Thursday’s meeting, over a thousand people came through the Visitor Center on Ind. 49. A record 2,363 people came to the Visitor Center on Thursday, July 6. Visitation is up 44%. Sales at the Visitor Center are up 65%, in part thanks to the addition of new items such as tie dye t-shirts.

Dunes Tourism’s YouTube subscriptions have almost doubled since May 2018, according to Promotions Director Dustin Ritchea, and its three top social media channels have a combined 2.1 million impressions.

The Indiana Dunes National Park has gotten some positive press that has probably boosted its online presence, including making a Forbes list of best National parks to visit to beat the crowds. Both the National and State parks were even the subjects of a recent New York Times article: “Welcome to America’s Newest National Park. Don’t Mind the Power Plant.”

Executive Director of Indiana Dunes Tourism Lorelei Weimer said the article was a pleasant surprise. The writer completed the Three-Dune Challenge and came to the Visitor Center twice in April, according to the story. “There are three nice paragraphs about the person interacting with our volunteers,” Weimer said. “We didn’t even know that this all took place, and he came specifically from New York to experience our National Park.”

In other business, Weimer reported the beach erosion issue has been assigned to a state senate study committee, meeting Aug. 7. Key people will testify about the impact of the erosion, and the committee will view the video that Weimer has collaborated with the National Parks Conservation Association to create and keep updated.

“I will be one of the people down there potentially giving more of the economic impact and letting them know what we’re seeing in terms of visitation increase as a result of the name change,” Weimer said.

The Dunes were dealt a major blow in April when the General Assembly opted not to earmark $1.2 million for an Army Corps of Engineers’ study on combating beach erosion and providing immediate beach nourishment following the collapse of part of the Portage Riverwalk last year. Weimer’s and the NPCA’s video is intended to show the extent of the damage from erosion and how it keeps worsening.

Weimer hopes the study committee could result in the budget being amended to provide some funding for the study and beach nourishment. She said many issues don’t even get to a study committee: “The fact that we did land that is a positive for us.”

Weimer also thanked the Valpo Chamber of Commerce for giving Dunes Tourism column space in its magazine to address questions about the new National Park status. “At the end of the day, our job is to get people to the Dunes, but we do want people to shake the sand off and go south. The real money spent is in our communities,” Weimer said.



Posted 7/23/2019




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