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.

I highly recommend that there be a clothing optional beach at the discussed location, and I strongly agree with every reason given. Do give it consideration.

I am from Michigan and I would visit if they put in a clothing optional beach. I have been to Haulover 5 or 6 times and there has always been more people on that small section of beach, than what one can see north and south, put together.

A nude beach would be great, especially if there is plenty of room for people to come and park their cars. I frequently visit Cape Canaveral seashore, and am writing this from the seashore, however there is a problem with parking at the New Smyrna side of the park. Charge extra if you want, but provide for a nude beach. We frequently travel from Detroit to Chicago and would rather go to Indiana Dunes nude beach than Warren Beach State Park in Mi.

As a resident of West Michigan, I always look for clothing optional beaches when planning a weekend-get-away or vacation. West Michigan recently lost a private clothing optional site on Lake Michigan. Patrons of this site were from MI, ,IN, IL, OH, IA, and beyond. A clothing optional recreational optinon is an unmet niche in the midwest. For clothing optional recreation seekers, Haulover (FL) and Gunnison (NJ) are destination beaches. Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore could be the next. The economic impact for the community - entry fees, lodging, restraunts, etc. - are favorable.

My husband, the kids and I just returned from a vacation in the Miami area. We've gone before and like the area, but the south beach area is just outragously priced, so we went a bit further north this year to Sunny Isles. As we like to walk the beach, on our second day we came accross Haulover Parks clothing optional beach. At first we were hesitant to be there, especially with kids, but the atmosphere was so pleasant, clean, polite, well mannored people. Not at all what I would have thought a nude beach would be like. We walked through a couple times and we were all curious to try going naked. After an hour we all rather liked it and the rest of the trip it became our place of choice, despite a half hour walk and a more crowded beach. Google Map Haulover park and look at the satalite image, the clothing optional area is obvious, it's 10 times more populated than the rest of this large park. We live in Northwest Indiana and frequent the Dunes often, since our trip we've all thought it would be nice if like Haulover park, they could set a small offbeat area (like perhaps "central beach") aside for clothing optional use. Even for the kids, I think it was a very relaxed, positive experiance and I'm sure people would travel some distance to use the area. The area near Cental Ave. has a history of being an unofficial clothing optional area long before the Indiana National Lakeshore was created, it would be nice to see them continue this heritage in a sanctioned clothing optional area.

I agree with all the comments and support the idea of a section of the beach designated as clothing optional. I would use it more. It should definitely be implemented.

I live in Michigan and I agree with every comment and point favoring a clothing optional beach.I definately would vacation a town that had a C/O beach

An official clothes optional beach on Lake Michigan definitely has my vote! It would draw a large and respectful crowd to the area.
That may not come to mind naturally to park administrators not into the nudist or naturist lifestyle but I'm sure it would create a financially profitable niche they would not regret.
Just get educated about nude recreation and lose false preconceived ideas about this family oriented lifestyle (

The metropolis of the midwest needs a "back to nature" venue for the many city and suburban dwellers who seek the naturist experience to unwind on the weekends. Once it becomes established your surrounding community businesses would only reap the rewards from the no. of tourists and locals it would attract. Naturists are generally polite and very quiet and tidy. You should give this SERIOUS consideration!

The clothing optional beach is a great idea, you would have all of my vacation dollars.

Central Beach at the Dunes would be a great spot for a clothing optional beach. We would definitely enjoy the beach even more if we could swim and sun bathe nude.

I am a lifelong resident of Indianapolis and I have not visited the dunes since childhood. However, if there were an officially sanctioned clothing optional beach there my wife and I would make regular trips during the summers. I agree with a number of comments above about the pros of having a clothing optional beach. I think it would make a great day trip destination for a number of tourists that would take great care of the beach and the park. Does anyone know how we can really see if this idea has legs?

i think it would be nice if central beach was clothing optional

A clothing optional beach would be a terrific idea. My wife and myself went to St. Martin for the holidays and went to a clothing optional beach for the first time. We had such a relaxing time at this beach cloths free, we decided to go their for three straight days. All the people we met on this beach were so pelite and respectful of the property and other visitors. More people were on this section of beach than the other two-thirds. We live in eastcentral Indiana and would differential come to the clothes optional Dunes on a regular basis.

Another vote for clothing optional! Being from the Chicago land area I would take several trips a year there

We would use Central Beach more often if it were clothing optional. The beach is wondeful. Dogs allowed is nice. Clothing optional would be fantastic. We visit Mazo beach in Wisconsin. Great nude beach. Central beach would be closer. Please consider make Central Beach clothing optional.

nude sunnbathinng is a great idea. Beautiful beachfront in nature wearing nature! You get my vote

The national lakeshore should make Kemil beach clothing optional. I've seen several nudists there in recent years and it doesn't seem to me that they are hurting anyone. They are usually secluded and minding their own business.

Perhaps im a little late finding and responding to this post but am glad i found it. I live in Indiana as like many others on this forum and i as well drive a thousand miles to new smyrna and haulover beach and spend about a thousand dollars, so me and my family can visit the Nude Beaches. Indiana as a whole would Benifit from a legal nude beach as well as the park, because of my gas stops, restaurant purchases and snacks just on the way to the beach in probably several different cities. im excited about this notion and ill be monitering it. You got my vote 100% SEE YOU THERE!