Chesterton Tribune                                                                                   Adv.

Dunes National Lakeshore 2009 report: Visitation up 6 percent

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By KEVIN NEVERS

A 6-percent increase in visitorship, the highly successful BioBlitz, and a drowning-free beach season are among the highlights of the 2009 report issued last week by Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, the first issued under the administration of Superintendent Constantine Dillon.

“No printed report can capture everything we do in one year, all the experiences visitor have, or all the contributions made by our partners and volunteers,” Dillon writes in an introduction to the report. “This is a snapshot of some highlights.”

The full report is available at www.nps.gov/indu or by calling public information officer Lynda Lancaster at 395-1682 or e-mailing her at lynda_lancaster@nps.gov

Begin with some numbers:

•Last year 1,944,375 visits were made to the National Lakeshore, 6 percent more than in 2008.

•More than 5,000 citizen-scientists—including 2,000 students—participated in the BioBlitz in May, in partnership with the National Geographic Society and collaboration with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. More than 1,200 different species were identified in the course of 24 hours, several of which had not been previously known to exist in the National Lakeshore.

•71,153 visitors entered the Dorothy Buell Memorial Visitor Center.

•2,531 visitors attended Maple Sugar Time; 5,176, the Duneland Harvest Festival; 3,201, formal interpretation programs like the Century of Progress Home Tour and the Midsummer Celebration; and 30,000 students participated in environmental education programs prepared and presented by the Dunes Learning Center and the National Park Service (NPS).

•All new exhibits were installed at the Paul H. Douglas Center for Environmental Education in Miller and a permanent staff re-established there after an absence of many years.

•A 2009 survey showed that 97 percent of park visitors were satisfied with the facilities, services, and recreational opportunities at the National Lakeshore, an increase over the 2008 rating and “among the highest of any national park.”

Safety

As part of a “multi-pronged approach to improving visitor safety and awareness at the shore”—in response to three drowning incidents in 2008—a total of 38,059 visitors were contacted by park guides; improved bilingual water safety signs were installed; and a Water Safety Program Analysis was conducted in partnership with the Student Conservation Association.”

“We are pleased that there were no drownings in 2009 and will continue to emphasize water safety and make improvements to the water safety program in 2010,” the report states.

Last year NPS rangers responded to 2,289 incidents, including 43 felony offenses and 1,707 misdemeanor. In 835 of the incidents, verbal warnings were issued to 3,483 offenders.

In addition, more than 30,000 marijuana plants found growing in the park were destroyed before going to seed. “Local authorities placed the value of these plants at approximately $800 per mature plant for a total value of over $24 million,” the report notes. The plants were mulched into vegetative cover as part of the park’s resource recovery program.

Natural Resources

“Preserving and managing 15,000 acres of woodlands, prairie, wetlands, lake waters, and other natural resources . . . is our primary job,” the report states.

Among the initiatives:

•Some 3,400 native plants, representing 14 species, were planted and numerous invasive species removed as part of a plan to restore approximately 600 acres of the Great Marsh.

•Some 26,500 native plants, representing 33 species and invasives removed as part of a multi-year plan, begun in 2009, to restore the Cowles Bog Wetland Complex. This year white cedar saplings will be planted in conjunction with The Nature Conservancy.

•A total of 38.8 acres of park infested with invasives were treated.

•An additional 150 plants of Beach Pea, a state-listed rare species, were propagated in the park, to join 20 other Beach Pea plants which have survived two years. Also re-established last year: stated-listed White Lady’s Slipper at Cowles Bog and Hairy-leaved Lake Sedge and White Cedar.

•Twenty acres of Mnoke Prairie were restored, with 5,100 native plant plugs transplanted from the park greenhouse, with the assistance of numerous volunteers.

•NPS firefighters extinguished 19 wildfires affecting 165 acres and conducted four prescribed fires affecting 489 acres.

•The NPS expects to have a final approved whitetail deer management plan completed in the second half of 2010.

Cultural Resources

Meanwhile, restoration work was begun on the Bailly Homestead—the only National Historic Landmark in Northwest Indiana—with architectural documentation of the brick house submitted for research and compliance purposes. Restoration of the Bailly Cemetery is underway and will continue this year.

NPS also began the process of donating 17 historic South Shore railroad cars to interested railroad museums.

The National Lakeshore acquired those cars following congressional legislation in the 1980s but does not have funding to maintain them or a place to store them.

The 2009 report makes no specific mention of Chellberg Farm.

In 2010

Projects slated for this year:

•A new sign plan to improve wayfinding, safety, and public awareness.

•New solar-powered lighting will be installed throughout the park—with American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding—two “green” roofs erected on administrative buildings, and additional employees hired for invasive species management.

•NPS is working with the Federal Highways Administration to finalize plans to repair the long problematic intersection of Beverly Drive and Kemil Road in Beverly Shores.

•A new trail has been proposed for the Great Marsh to give birders access to this excellent habitat.

•A “Commercial Services Plan will be done to determine what, if any, private businesses might be suitable in the park to provide visitor services.”

 

 

 

Posted 3/30/2010

 

 

 

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