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Fans of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore Being Asked to Contribute Ideas to Lakeshore's Future


Winter's brute force is evident along the shores of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. NPS photo.

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore could accurately be described as an "urban" park. Its location on Lake Michigan is rimmed by Indiana towns and cities such as Gary, Hammond, Portage, Valparasio, and Michigan City. And, understandably, the residents of those communities have a vested interest in the lakeshore's future. That's where the National Park and Conservation Association's "National Park, Regional Treasure" program comes into play.

This program is a partnership between the NPCA and The Eppley Institute at Indiana University, The Field Museum of Chicago, and the National Park Service. Through the endeavor they hope to "open a meaningful dialog about the challenges and opportunities at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. The strategic planning project is a call for ideas to improve the visitor experience, connect the park to surrounding communities and the Chicago area, and to enhance Indiana Dune's future as an iconic national park."

Here's the lowdown on the project:

What makes this strategic plan different from other plans the Park Service has already developed at Indiana Dunes?

This strategic planning process is being led by NPCA and other park partners in cooperation with the National Park Service. 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.

What is the Park Service’s role in this planning process?

As a partner in this planning process, the Park Service is eager to enhance the connection between Indiana Dunes and its supporters and visitors. Many of the recommendations in the final plan will likely be directed toward building new and strong park partnerships and others may be focused on park operations, so the Park Service’s expertise and input is crucial to the success of the plan and its subsequent implementation.

How will the public participate?

The project team will talk to many people over the next several months by phone, email, and in person and will survey park visitors at various times during the project. A special online survey allows you to provide your thoughts and input as well. Or you can send us an email with your comments to: or provide feedback here.

What kinds of things will this plan cover?

We will be looking at many different aspects of the park: how a visitor’s experience can be improved; how the unique resources can be preserved amid pressure from surrounding development; and how to inspire a new generation of park supporters to care for the park. And we will be looking for new ideas and fresh thoughts from people who care about Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.

When will the plan be completed?

The planning process has begun and the finished report is anticipated in the spring of 2011.


There should definitely be space officially set aside for nude sunbathing. I believe if the groups heading up the strategic plan thoroughly evaluated this concept they would find it to have a lot of public support and very beneficial to Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.

If you want to promote the Dunes as an urban park, it would be necessary to attact more businesses to the area.
Many municipalities offer tax incentives to bring business to the area in the form of a long term ETIF, i.e. 10 years, or refunds on corporate tax and insurance, or tax exemptions on zone related expenses. I believe there needs to be development in the form of more shops, galleries, restaurants, and places to stay if you want to attact more city folks.
I do not believe Gary is a great place to start because I believe Gary's government has a different agenda.
Maybe on the Federal Level?
If there were more places of interest along Hwy 12 between Gary and Michigan City, done well, (like Carmel, Ca or Monterrey) You could attact artists and business folks. There has to be an effort managed by people with the right vision, because we don't want to ruin the dunes either.
There has to be a balance of attactions and nature. And you have to be careful not to upset the natural settings.
You can't throw out money to a black hole of greedy politicians, this really has to be planned.

How would nude sunbathing benefit the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore?

I am glad to see someone read my post, and cared enough to ask the question. In my opinion, officially permitted nude sunbathing would be a huge benefit to the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore because nudists/naturists, in my experience, are very respectful of nature, the outdoors, and most importantly, other people. So their use would not negatively impact the park itself or visitors for other purposes. However, if it is allowed, if in only a section of the beach (see, e.g., Haulover Beach, FL), such use has huge potential to increase the use and awareness of the park and its beauty because of the major growth in the population enjoying clothing optional beaches these days and the lack of anywhere else to enjoy it - well, ya, just about anywhere! With such close proximity to Chicago, I would guess there would be many thousands of good and new users and appreciaters of the park if it happened. I think it is a "no-brainer". If only someone (preferrably at all levels - fed, state, local) with pull had the courage to seriously consider it - no - advocate it. I would suggest at least a thorough study be done on the whole issue to see if my hunches are correct. Including my hunch that it would bring more tourist dollars to the local economy. I think it has worked out well where it has been implemented a few places around the country.

In follow up to my previous post advocating an official clothing optional section - I think with the increased use it is sure to cause there will be a corresponding increase in business development (i.e. restaurants, resorts, art galleries, etc.) the previous poster was hoping would occur. Creative incentives would be great too, but not if there are no customers.

Yes, a clothing-optional beach is a great idea. Charge a little extra, if you want, though that wouldn't be necessary to make money. As the only official, public nude beach in the Midwest (not counting the one in Toronto), it would draw huge numbers. Haulover Beach in Florida (Miami) is a public beach run by the Dade County Parks. It has lifeguards, refreshment stands, toilets - all the usual amenities of a public beach. Because it is the only nude beach in the area it draws huge numbers of locals and tourists. It is the most popular park in the Dade County Parks system. It makes a whole lot of money, just in parking fees, for the Parks Department. The local hotels love it.

Also look at Gunnison Beach in the Sandy Hook National Seashore in New Jersey. New Jersey has a state law banning public nudity, but because the National Seashore is Federal land, they are able to have a clothing-optional beach there. Again, lifeguards, refreshment stands, toilets and a truly freedom-loving policy makes Gunnison Beach hugely popular.

A clothing optional beach is something that should be considered.

An opportunity to bring in needed funds should not be ignored. A clothing optional beach sounds like a good idea.

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