Chesterton Tribune



Dunes Action calls on DNR to hold public meeting on proposed Pavilion project changes

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Dunes Action is calling on the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to hold a new public meeting to fully explain the proposed changes for the nearly 90-year-old Pavilion at the Indiana Dunes State Park.

Both Dunes Action and the National Park Service (NPS) have recently sent letters to the DNR. NPS asked that the DNR direct Pavilion Partners LLC to either revert to the original plans for restoration, submit new plans for review, or consider converting the Pavilion instead. Dunes Action requested a public meeting for the citizens of Northwest Indiana to weigh-in.

This project has been riddled with problems, partly because theres been no public dialogue. Were now asking the DNR to give us -- the owners of this historic building -- an opportunity to learn whats really going on, and to provide some much needed input, said Dunes Action co-founder Jim Sweeney.

While Dunes Action agrees that the Pavilion restoration is long overdue, the group wants it to be done in a way that is faithful to the buildings history and integrity. According to statements made by State Park Director Dan Bortner to the Indiana Natural Resources Commission in 2012, the DNRs original intention seemed to be a return to the buildings original design. Dunes Action believes that the DNR and its lessee, Pavilion Partners LLC, have strayed too far from that goal.

Also, the DNRs most recent plans are out of compliance with Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) requirements due to a lack of public access, according to the NPS.

In a July 12 letter to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), a group that has been working with Dunes Action, Jeffery Reinbold, assistance director for partnerships and civic engagement for the NPS updated the groups on the NPSs stance: Ultimately, we found the plans have changed enough to require a new review because the Pavilion Project no longer appears to be secondary and supportive of outdoor recreation. We noted several changes as problematic, such as the loss of public access throughout the building; the appearance of a tilt towards more formalized dining options; and the lack of dedicated public recreation space on the rooftop.

Reinbold went on to say that the NPS communicated the same concerns to DNR Director Cameron Clark in a May 15 letter requesting that the DNR communicate the need for remediation to Pavilion Partners and was still awaiting a response at the time of the July 12 letter.

In the May 15 letter, Roger Knowlton, chief of recreation grants for the NPS, wrote: We are also concerned by the INDNRs statements that these plans will likely continue to change, and we are uncomfortable providing a determination for an action that will continually have cause to be questioned with each iteration of the plans.

The latest plans for the Pavilion, released by the DNR in February 2018, still call for a bar/restaurant covering the entire rooftop and the addition of two large balconies on the lake side, additions that were labeled drastic and problematic by the DNRs professional staff back in 2010. Knowlton also stated in the May 15 letter that a large bar on the first floor does not support the concept that it is intended to be a casual family-oriented, food service for beachgoers.

Dunes Action thinks a meeting will be a win-win for everyone. The DNR can provide up-to-date information and address the publics concerns, and the public will finally have a say on what they do or dont want at the Pavilion. Now that the project plans are once again in flux, this is the perfect time to do it, said Sweeney.

Dunes Action is a grassroots, all-volunteer, non-partisan coalition. Find them on Facebook or



Posted 9/14/2018




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