Conservation and Research Groups Launch Planning Process for Revitalizing Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore

 
PRESS RELEASE
  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date:   January 25, 2010
Contact:   Kathleen O'Neil, Media Relations, 202.419.3717
Lynn McClure, NPCA Midwest Regional Director, 312.263.0111 office, 312-343-7216 cell


Conservation and Research Groups Launch Planning Process for Revitalizing Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore

Chicago, Illinois – Whether you frequently visit the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, or just wish you had the time to spend there, it’s time to make your voice heard on the park’s future. The National Parks Conservation Association, The Eppley Institute at Indiana University, and The Field Museum of Chicago have launched a strategic planning process in partnership with the National Park Service, to address challenges and opportunities at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. The project, called "National Park, Regional Treasure," has begun with a call for ideas from the public on ways to improve the visitor experience, better connect the park to surrounding communities and the Chicago area, and recommendations to ensure Indiana Dunes' future as an iconic national park.

“This national park is one of the treasures in the Great Lakes region, and a critical resource for the people of Northwest Indiana and the Chicago area,” said Lynn McClure, Midwest Regional Director at the National Parks Conservation Association. “We want to connect a new generation of people to this park. That's how parks thrive.”

To make it as easy as possible for people to respond, the partners have developed an informational web site about the process that includes an online survey at www.npca.org/midwest/dunes. People who have already visited the park are particularly invited to weigh in with their ideas for improvements or other ways to make the park more widely visited.

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore was formed in 1966 to protect some of the unique shoreline along Lake Michigan from increasing development. The park has grown from its original size of 8,330 acres to more than 15,000 acres of sensitive dune lands, bird-filled marshes, oak and maple forests, and remnants of once-vast prairies. More than 350 species of birds have been observed at the park and more than 90 endangered plant species are found within the park’s boundaries.

“Scientists have recognized this area as a world-class natural resource since University of Chicago ecologist Henry Cowles first described the process of ecological succession that he observed on its dunes more than 100 years ago,” said Laurel M. Ross, Urban Conservation Director at the Field Museum of Chicago. “We hope that this new plan will result in people from all over our region learning to cherish this magnificent jewel of the Midwest.”

Ever since the park was created, however, it has experienced challenges in keeping development at bay and protecting the fragile resources from degradation due to its proximity to industry and urban life. Visitors’ safety is sometimes compromised having to navigate the many highway and rail crossings in the park. And because of the way the park boundary twists and turns, and the way that land has been added over time to the park, visitors to Indiana Dunes can be confused about when they are in the park.

Unlike the park’s existing General Management Plan, which primarily focuses on managing the park’s natural and cultural treasures, this strategic plan will focus on identifying park challenges and developing solutions with the help of park partners, supporters, community residents, and visitors. The project team will be looking at many different aspects of the park, including how visitors' experiences can be improved, how the park's unique resources can be preserved amid pressure from surrounding development, and how to inspire a new generation of park supporters to use and care for the park.

“National Park, Regional Treasure” is funded in part through a grant from the Gaylord & Dorothy Donnelley Foundation.

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The National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) is the largest non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to protecting and enhancing America’s National Parks. NPCA, its members, and partners work together to protect the park system and preserve our nation's natural, historical, and cultural heritage for generations to come. The Midwest Regional Office of NPCA is leading the strategic plan and gathering park supporters from throughout the region and beyond to add their voices to the process.

The Eppley Institute for Parks and Public Lands at Indiana University provides training, education, research, planning, design, and technical assistance for recreation and park management agencies across the nation. Through its work with organizations such as the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, the State of Indiana, the City of Gary, plus dozens of other agencies, the Eppley Institute combines academic expertise with real-world experience to develop practical, effective solutions. Staff at the Eppley Institute will provide expertise in regional research analysis, stakeholder engagement, strategic planning, and operational feasibility.

The Field Museum of Chicago, incorporated in 1893, will provide research and counsel to the planning efforts at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Recognizing and connecting community strengths is key to putting plans into action, and the Museum’s division of Environment, Culture, and Conservation has extensive experience with integrating the social characteristics of the Calumet Region into environmental conservation. 

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