Results of a survey of visitors to Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore could likely be applied to many units of the National Park System: Those who took the survey said there's a need for more rangers, better funding, and improved access.
Conducted by the National Parks Conservation Association as part of its National Park, Regional Treasure program, the survey was available on-line. Nearly 70 percent of the more than 400 respondents voiced concerns for the lakeshore's natural resources, citing invasive species, pollution, and water quality issues. Nearly 16 percent pointed to air and water pollution from the park’s industrial neighbors and other sources. Pollution of beaches by visitor garbage was also mentioned, according to NPCA officials.
Inadequate funding was mentioned by 13 percent of those who took the survey as a major issue facing the lakeshore. Most were concerned with the park’s ability to continue programming, retaining and expanding staff, and general upkeep of the park. NPCA officials said additional challenges voiced included erosion, encroachment by industrial and residential development, parking, and community relations.
There also were concerns expressed over access to the park. Nearly ten percent who addressed this issue voiced concern about limited beach parking during high use summer days; 14 percent mentioned bike accessibility or safety, and; many were disappointed about an inability to transport bikes on the South Shore Line, the NPCA said.
"Visitors also commonly expressed a desire for more information about the dunes, asking for more rangers, ranger-led activities, and interpretive exhibits," the advocacy group said. "A number of respondents wrote in support of living history at the Bailey Homestead and Chellberg Farm."
Those who took the survey also had some ideas on how to improve the lakeshore.
"Many suggested that improved community relations between the park and its numerous neighbors and users would be fruitful. Funding was also a common topic; respondents urged increased funding for the park through congressional action, increased user fees, friends group fund-raising, and other means," NPCA said. "Survey takers emphasized the need for increased awareness of about the park, to be accomplished through education, media, marketing, and outreach. Additional suggestions included increasing park size, ranger presence, and use of volunteers, along with shuttle and other transportation solutions."
NPCA also has put up a page on its website where lakeshore visitors can post their views and impressions of the park. You can find it here.