Indiana Dunes Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk

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New Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore chief: 'I'd be nuts not to want this job'

July 11, 2014 - Kevin Nevers, Chesterton Tribune

For a long time the National Park Service was in the “island management business,” maintaining and operating its landlocked properties--if landlocked they were--without much regard for the surrounding communities. That’s the considered view of Paul Labovitz, the new superintendent of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. “We had a place with a boundary and we looked inward,” he says. “That attitude of isolationism was fairly common.” Now, however, it’s fairly uncommon, Labovitz believes. “We finally realized that everything that happens inside our boundaries is affected by what happens outside.”

Back in the day, island-managing might have seemed like a reasonable--certainly the natural--strategy for some of NPS’ far-flung and remote wilderness properties. But it could hardly be less suited to the National Lakeshore, which isn’t anything like an island but more like a corridor between the two urban centers of Gary and Michigan City, traversing or sideswiping more than a dozen municipalities in three counties, crowded by the steel industry and a spaghetti of rail lines, and lapping up into a whole lot of regular folks’ back yards.

For that reason, “partnership” is Labovitz’s watchword. “We’re trying to engage with the people who are our neighbors, from property owners to other governmental agencies,” he says. “There’s industry here. Utilities. A host of communities. It’s a complicated landscape.”

Funnily enough, when Labovitz came to the National Lakeshore last fall, as interim superintendent--following the retirement of his predecessor, Constantine Dillon--he thought he knew all about complicated parks. “I wasn’t interested in applying for the job,” he says. “Three days later, I thought I’d be nuts not to want to. I’d been a visitor here a few times, you know, for the proverbial three hours. But the more I learned about the park, the more I was blown away.”

One of the faces behind a local treasure - Garry Traynham

July 1, 2014 Jeff Manes, Sun-Times Media

“The Dunes are to the Midwest what the Grand Canyon is to Arizona and Yosemite is to California. They constitute a signature of time and eternity. Once lost, the loss would be irrevocable.”

— Carl Sandburg

Garry Traynham, deputy superintendent of the 15,000-acre Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, is nearing retirement. Our interview took place in the conference room at the headquarters off of Mineral Springs Road in Porter.

Traynham, 59, lives in an unincorporated area of LaPorte near Rolling Prairie with his wife Audrey.

“I was born in High Point, North Carolina,” Traynham began.

Garry, I was traveling through North Carolina once and stopped in the mountains of Asheville. I ordered a pizza with pork topping and almost died — food poisoning. I don’t think those folks knew what a pizza was.

“Ha! To be honest, I don’t think I had a pizza until I was in college. We were raised on farm food.”

At what college did you attend?

“North Carolina State. I have a degree in forest resources.”

First job after college?

“On the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia. It runs from Shenandoah National Park to the Great Smokies. It’s 460 miles long. I started as a seasonal employee at a place called the Peaks of Otter. I was there for a total of eight years.”

When did you eventually transfer to the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore?

“In 1997. I have 37 years with the National Park Service.”

Looking For Summer Fun? Five Top Activities At The Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore

June 17, 2014 - John Dodge, CBS Chicago

CHICAGO (CBS) — My biggest wish for Father’s Day was to see my children at peace and happy. Along with some summer fun for dad, too.

One of the best ways for my family to achieve this blissful state and share in the joy of good family time is to get everybody outside. This past Sunday, we drove to Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore for a day of mellow adventure. Best gift ever.

One doesn’t need a special occasion to visit the park, which is just east of Gary–or just more than an hour’s drive from downtown Chicago.

Here are five (there are many more) things to do at the Dunes:

Be aware of Great Lakes’ hidden danger

June 8, 2014 - Christin Nance Lazerus, The Post

Beaches are a welcome diversion as summer arrives on the scene, but swimmers should always be aware of the dangers of rip currents on Lake Michigan.

The first week in June was National Rip Current Awareness Week and Beach Safety Awareness Week. Every year, around a dozen people drown in the Great Lakes because of rip currents, according to the National Weather Service.

Dave Benjamin, executive director of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, said whenever there are waves, there are dangerous currents created when waves pull back strongly from the shore.

“It’s like a treadmill,” Benjamin said of a rip current. “When you get on it, the only way to stop is to step aside to get off. There’s no weighing against it. What we advocate is flip, float on your back and follow the current.”

The natural tendency when swimmers get caught in a rip current is to swim against it toward the shore, but most safety agencies advise swimming parallel to the shore to avoid getting sucked into the current again.

Benjamin said swimming parallel to the shore can be effective if the waves are coming about every 20 seconds, which is typical on ocean beaches, but lake beaches have more frequent waves, about every 3 to 6 seconds on windy days.

“We feel you should flip on back, then float to keep your head above water,” he said. “You conserve energy and can calm down from the fear and panic, and you’re already following the current. You may not be able to see shore, but if you continue floating, the longer you float the longer you’ll be alive and rescue may be possible.”

Read the original story online here.

Free day of family fun in the dunes

May 30, 2014 - The Times

PORTER | Dunes Learning Center’s National Get Outdoors Day open house is planned from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., June 14. Now in its seventh year, this annual nationwide event has one goal: to provide opportunities for families to reconnect with the great outdoors.

One of three participating sites in Indiana, Dunes Learning Center is located in Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and is not generally open to the public. Thanks to local partners, visitors will have an opportunity to sample a wide range of outdoor activities among the park's wetlands, rivers, prairies and woodlands.

“This is a wonderful way for families to enjoy an active day outdoors, learn from experts, tour our facilities and explore this great National Park—all at no charge,” said Geof Benson, Executive Director of Dunes Learning Center.

The event will offer a number of activities and learning opportunities for visitors.

Dunes Learning Center's education staff will lead themed hikes throughout the day, including one to the Little Calumet River—where event partners, Save the Dunes, will offer visitors an opportunity to get "up close and personal" with the East Branch of the Little Calumet River. Kids can observe, identify, and learn about river creatures—and assess water quality—thanks to funding by the Lake Michigan Coastal Program.

Back at camp, national lakeshore rangers will unveil a new Passport to the Dunes program and help families get their first "stamp." Authors Stacy Tornio and Ken Keffer will offer a scavenger hunt activity for kids and a chance to take home a copy of their “We Love Nature” keepsake journal. Northwest Indiana Paddling Association volunteers will lead “Introduction to Paddling Safely” classes every hour—a favorite activity at previous Get Outdoors Day events.

New this year—visitors can test drive an eco-car and help support Dunes Learning Center programs and scholarships. Event sponsors, Lakeshore Motors, invite you to "Drive for Your Community," at Get Outdoors Day and learn more about how transportation choices impact climate change. For those who would like to explore more active transportation choices, Trek Bicycle Store of Schererville will offer two-wheeled test drives.

Music, games, crafts and a picnic lunch will round out a full day of fun in the national park. Admission is free and all ages are welcome. Register online at

Read original article here.