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: Midwest@npca.org 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.