1. Why was this group formed?
Citizen groups have always been an instrumental part of national parks. Many national parks have support organizations known as park “associations,” “trusts” or “friends groups.” These organizations undertake projects that the park cannot accomplish on its own due to legal restrictions or limitations of staff and funding. Support organizations can increase community awareness of the park, organize fundraising campaigns, serve as advocates for park programs, or seek volunteers to assist park staff.
We are citizens who live in and around Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, and we want to be involved in determining the future of the park and in helping preserve the park’s resources. We think the park is underappreciated and lacks many of the developments a national park should have.
2. How does such a group function?
Park support groups are comprised of interested community members who support the goals of the park. Membership methods, organizational structure, and finances are the decisions of the organization. National Park Service personnel cannot be members of the group’s governing board or hold executive office.
3. Why do you think this park needs your kind of organization?
Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore has come a long way in 45 years, but there is still a lot to be done. The National Park Service needs help in providing better services for visitors and making the park more of an economic asset to the region. The DNPA can provide the interface between business and the park to increase awareness of what the park has to offer and how the public can take advantage of it.
Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore does not charge an entrance fee like the state park, so it has very little income. This organization can apply for and receive grants that otherwise cannot go to a federal agency. It can also ask for donations, something that National Park Service employees cannot do.
4. How did this group get started?
Members of the public had contacted the park individually looking for how they could lend support. Eventually, they got connected with each other and decided to form this organization. They think there is a great number of people in the region who support the national park but who have not had an outlet where they can show their support. The DNPA wants to be that outlet.
5. How are you different from Save the Dunes or the Shirley Heinze Land Trust?
These are both outstanding organizations that do excellent work in land conservation and environmental awareness. Without Save the Dunes, there would be no Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.
The missions of these organizations are different than that of DNPA. DNPA is dedicated solely to supporting Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. But, the DNPA will not be buying or managing land like Shirley Heinze and will not be an environmental and conservation organization like Save the Dunes. However, all three have two things in common: a love for the dunes area and a desire to protect these resources.
6. Won’t you be competing for the same money and members as Save the Dunes and Shirley Heinze?
There are 2 million visitors to Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore every year, and more than 8 million people live within a two-hour drive of the national park. There is plenty of room for everyone!
7. What are some of the needs of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore as the DNPA sees them?
Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore has never achieved its potential. It does not have the visitor amenities that a first-class national park should have. It has not completed land protection and has never had funding to restore historic properties. The DNPA wants to help with this. Some major issues that need public support:
- Restoration of the Good Fellow Lodge and returning it to use as a functioning overnight facility.
- Restoration of the historic House of Tomorrow.
- Developing exhibits for the visitor center.
- Encouraging private sector support for a commercial hotel and restaurant on the lake near the park.
- Raising public awareness of the park. Newspaper stories often get park information wrong and Chicago media almost never covers park stories.
- Advocating for zoning, set-back ordinances, and other land use planning that will protect the park and assure public use and recreation opportunities exist in the future.
- Funding for a shuttle system to the beach. This would reduce traffic impact on local residents, reduce air pollution and congestion from visitor vehicles, and increase spending at local businesses where shuttle parking lots would be located.
- Transfer of U.S. Highway 12 through the national park to the National Park Service. This road is in the heart of the park. It makes no sense not to have it managed as part of the park.
- Increasing concession opportunities in the park for such things as food service, horseback riding, bicycle rental, paddling sports, and gift shops.