Chesterton Tribune

Survey: Funding, invasive species, pollution top concerns of Indiana Dunes visitors

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The nonprofit National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) and the Field Museum of Chicago have released results from an on-line survey conducted earlier this year that encouraged the public to share their park experiences and help shape the future of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.

The survey—part of NPCA’s larger strategic planning project, "National Park, Regional Treasure”— was developed to address challenges and opportunities at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.

“When we asked, people certainly responded,” said Lynn McClure, Midwest regional director of NPCA. “There are many people who love this national park and visit for a variety of reasons such as the parks’ trails, beaches and wildlife. We need to connect a new generation of people to this park and make sure that it is accessible for those traveling from nearby urban centers. It’s their escape from the city.”

Park lovers across the country care about Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and more than 400 people from 20 states responded to the informational on-line survey, which was launched earlier this year. The survey explored visitors’ connections to the park and asked about their experiences, the challenges at the National Lakeshore, and solutions that they propose.

“One of the best things about the survey was that people offered solid ideas for how to address challenges at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore,” said Laurel Ross, urban conservation director for the Field Museum of Chicago. “It is clear that there are people ready to help this park—as well as the entire Calumet Region—to restore and manage the rich natural resources and to improve visitor experiences.”

The survey found that participants were well acquainted with Indiana Dunes with a majority—77 percent—having visited the park in the last six months. The survey also found that park funding, the threat of invasive species, and pollution were described as top concerns for the National Lakeshore. Accessing the park ranked as an additional challenge for visitors as there is limited parking space available and regulations that restrict visitors from bringing their bicycles on public trains that travel to the park.

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“There are many people who want to care for this park,” McClure said. “The key—and an important part of the strategic process—is connecting all of these passionate people with the monumental job of funding and protecting Indiana Dunes.”

NPCA has launched a new feature on its website that highlights the “Faces of Indiana Dunes.” The new section features comments, photos and, videos from people who care about the park.

NPCA’s “National Park, Regional Treasure: a strategic plan for Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore” will be completed in spring 2011 and presented to the park and the public. The strategic plan will include input from the survey and park partners on a variety of recommendations for increased partnerships and initiatives to build support for the park. The project is funded by the Gaylord Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, ArcelorMittal, and a generous group of National Parks Conservation Association members and donors.

NPCA is the largest non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to protecting and enhancing America’s National Parks. The Field Museum of Chicago, incorporated in 1893, will provide research and counsel to the planning efforts at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.




Posted 9/29/2010