Chesterton Tribune



Amended Indiana Dunes State Park Pavilion restaurant plans now meet NPS approval

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The National Park Service (NPS) has signed off on the most recent set of plans for the retrofit of the Pavilion at Indiana Dunes State Park beach, and is of the opinion that the new plans--dated Aug. 29, 2018--do not trigger a conversion of use under the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act (LWCF).

In a letter dated Oct. 4, 2018--and just posted to the Dunes State Park website, in the “Documents” section--NPS Recreation Grants Chief Roger Knowlton expressed his satisfaction that the problems which he had outlined in a letter dated May 15, 2018, had been resolved. “We feel these plans have restored several of the elements the June 2016 plans contained including (but not limited to): similar amounts of public space; improved access; and flexibility of space for multipurpose uses,” Knowlton wrote. “Based on these details, and assuming the revised plans and explanation do not change, we do not view the alterations to the Pavilion as triggering a conversion of use.”

Specifically, Knowlton objected to a number of design trends in a modified set of plans submitted to the DNR by Pavilion Partners LLC on Aug. 3, 2017, just about a year after NPS concluded that putting a restaurant in the Pavilion would not constitute a conversion of public recreational land under LWCF. Those trends, as Knowlton enumerated them: “the loss of public access throughout the building; the appearance of a tilt towards more formalized dining options; and the lack of dedicated public recreation space on the rooftop.”

Knowlton suggested at the time that DNR either “direct Pavilion Partners to revert to their original plans, submit updated plans for a new determination, or consider converting the Pavilion.”

A conversion of the Pavilion from public recreational land to non-public would have forced DNR to identify and purchase a comparable piece of property--“determined by NPS to be of at least equal fair market value and of reasonably equivalent usefulness and location”--as a swap.

“We understand that the IDNR and Pavilion Partners do not intend to alter the plans further,” Knowlton concluded in his Oct. 4, 2018, letter. “However, if it becomes apparent that additional modifications to the plans are required or warranted, the IDNR must notify and work closely with the NPS to ensure that any such changes are in compliance with the requirements of the LWCF.”

In a letter to Knowlton and dated Aug. 29, 2018, the DNR Director Cameron Clark described in detail the changes made to the Aug. 3, 2017, plans to address Knowlton’s specific concerns.

* Knowlton objected to a reconfiguration of first-floor floor space in favor of “a larger dining space with a central bar area and more controlled access to the general store/concessions area.” According to Clark, “The updated plans sought to alleviate this concern by decentralizing the bar, as well as substantially decreasing its overall size.”

* Knowlton expressed concern about park guests’ ability to “move around/through the building.” According to Clark, the kitchen has been decreased in size and relocated, “creating an open-air concept which will allow guests to walk directly through the Pavilion to the beach.”

* Knowlton noted that “the elimination of a significant amount of public space from the first floor inhibits public access and use for visitors wanting to come in from the elements and take advantage of the services offered in the Pavilion when dining establishments are closed.” According to Clark, “the updated plans will have the same, if not more, public space on the first floor as specified in the previously approved plans,” and “all of the common spaces have been reintroduced in the updated plans.”

* Knowlton did not like the “fine dining” label on the second-floor restaurant, “because it could make the operation seem unwelcoming to park users.” According to Clark, “The updated plans no longer provide for ‘fine dining,’ rather they have reverted back to providing for a casual, sit-down restaurant. In order not to duplicate the dining services provided on the first floor, it is anticipated that this space will be used to provide unique dining options such as, for example, a regular Sunday ‘brunch.’” When not in use as restaurant, the second floor could also be used for “a multitude of other purposes,” including “educational programs to be hosted by IDNR and available to the public.”

* Knowlton remarked as well that “the lack of any public space on the rooftop that is not for drinking or eating also diminishes the outdoor recreation opportunity for the building.” According to Clark, the updated plans for the rooftop have “reverted back to the original design concept in virtually all material and aesthetic respects,” with these exceptions: there are fewer tables in the east and west public rooftop areas; the service/refreshment counter is smaller and has fewer seats; and the east and west areas are now handicap accessible.

Clark concludes his letter to Knowlton that DNR and Pavilion Partners at this point “have no intention of altering the construction plans further, in the event NPS agrees that these updated plans satisfy the requirements of the LWCF program so as not to trigger a conversion.”


Posted 2/12/2019




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