Press Release Sep 26, 2011

New Report Offers Recommendations for Improving Visitor Experience and Regional Support at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore

Groups provide roadmap for protecting and enhancing Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore

PORTER, Ind. – The nation’s leading voice for our national parks, the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), in partnership with The Field Museum of Chicago and the Eppley Institute for Parks and Public Lands at Indiana University, today released a report titled National Park, Regional Treasure: The Future of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. The report seeks to raise awareness and spark a dialogue among park partners to improve the visitor experience at Indiana Dunes and provide recommendations for how to better manage park resources, and to expand community and regional support for the national park.


The Future of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore

This marvel of a national park, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, visited by some 2 million people each year, was created and survives in one of the most heavily populated places…

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“The long-term health and viability of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore depends upon strong support from park advocates and key decision makers at the national, state and local level,” said Lynn McClure, NPCA’s Midwest regional director. “As we approach the centennial of the National Park Service in 2016, and the 50th anniversary of the park, park partnerships will play a key role in providing the volunteers, the funding, and the advocacy to build upon the park’s educational programs and family-fun activities, which are often minimal or no cost to park visitors.”

With more than two million visitors annually, the report finds that improving accessibility and signage will make it easier for visitors to navigate throughout the park so they can discover and experience all that Indiana Dunes has to offer. Increasing a National Park Service presence in Chicago through designation of a trail of historic and natural sites that lead to Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, will bring a higher level of awareness to the 2.7 million people who live a mere 35 miles away, in the nation’s third largest city.

“People are drawn to our nationally significant natural areas. Every road widening and every new parking space to accommodate the vast majority of visitors paves over a little more of what they came to see,” said Steve Buchtel, southland coordinator for Active Transportation Alliance. “Finding alternative ways for getting to the park, such as improving bicycle and walking routes from South Shore train stations and allowing bicycles to board the trains, would benefit the park, the visitor’s experience, and people’s lives.”

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore is among the top tier of National Parks threatened by climate change. The park, on the shores of Lake Michigan, will suffer from a loss of snow and ice, loss of fish, will experience increased downpours and flooding, and damaged plant and wildlife. The report recommends that the park develop and adopt a Climate Action Plan, with the input and cooperation of regional scientists, in order to address the effects of a changing climate on park resources.

“The parks land, water, wildlife and plants are fragmented by park boundaries, leaving the park’s fragile resources vulnerable to encroaching development and other harmful threats such as climate change and pollution, said Laurel Ross, urban conservation director for The Field Museum in Chicago. “The adjacent state park, scientists and resource managers must work together to protect the park against such threats. “We recommend that an official boundary study of the park be conducted to redraw park lines that could eliminate some of the disconnected park fragments.”

“National parks are outdoor classrooms where we can learn about and appreciate wildlife and waterways, places to see our history come alive, family vacation destinations, and are playgrounds that offer unparalleled outdoor recreational opportunities within reach of many of our country’s urban and rural areas. They are economic drivers for surrounding communities,” said McClure. The report recommends that the National Lakeshore must have greater visibility, stronger identity as a national park, and deeper emotional and economic ties within the region. This identity and these ties will help foster the critical and consistent support necessary to protect the park for all Americans.”

“Having a national park designated in Northwest Indiana, more than 40 years ago, was a testament to far thinking, action oriented people who understood how special this area is, said Stephen Wolter, executive director for the Eppley Institute for Parks and Public Lands at Indiana University. “Now is the time for the next generation of far thinking park stewards to contribute by helping Indiana Dunes become what it was meant to be for the environment and sustainability, for the economy and the people of Northwest Indiana, and all Americans.”

"We appreciate the work of the National Parks Conservation Association and its partners in preparing this report and suggesting improvements at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore,” said Costa Dillon, superintendent at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. “Many years of work by many people went into creating this park, and it is fitting that the public continues to play a role in guiding its future. Public support and involvement are essential for the success of this region’s only national park.”

To view the full report, please click here.


About National Parks Conservation Association
Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its more than one million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s natural, historical, and cultural heritage for future generations. For more information, visit

About the Field Museum of Chicago
The Field Museum is an educational institution concerned with the diversity and relationships in nature and among cultures. It provides collection-based research and learning for greater public understanding and appreciation of the world in which we live. Its collections, public learning programs, and research are inseparably linked to serve a diverse public of varied ages, backgrounds and knowledge.  For more information, visit

About the Eppley Institute for Parks and Public Lands at Indiana University The Eppley Institute is Indiana University’s unique outreach program for the park, recreation and public land management professions and works to enhance the quality of natural, cultural, and recreational experiences for all people. The Eppley Institute provides expertise in several areas, including technical assistance and research, planning and design, and training and education for the National Park Service and other similar organizations around the world.  For more information, visit

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