Chesterton Tribune that
a press-conference format would have done a better job of involving the
public: all stakeholders in a single room, one question asked at a time, one
answer given at a time, by this or that authoritative official, so that
everyone would be working off the same page going forward.
Here’s the second
thing. Very few of those who oppose the banquet center object either to the
rehabilitation of the Pavilion or to the operation of a restaurant in the
And here’s the
third thing. Although easily the majority of those in attendance on Monday
were there to express their opposition to the project, many, many were not.
Representatives of the local and regional business community and of the
tourism industry, not surprisingly, helped to pack the Visitor Center.
But others just
wanted a couple of questions answered. Pat Carlisle, who frequently appears
before the Chesterton Town Council on matters of import to Duneland, was one
of the latter. She told the Chesterton Tribune that she wanted to
know, first and foremost, that the customers of the restaurant and banquet
center will pay gate fees.
assured that such would be the case and she left happy, after telling the
Tribune that she thinks the project is a good and valuable one.
Nor has everyone
made up his or her mind. Porter County Commissioner John Evans, R-North,
said he “really just went to get educated” and hasn’t decided “if I’m for or
against” it. He added that he did see the plans “but can sort of understand
why an open exchange did not occur, as it was a fairly hostile environment
for anyone who supported it.”
Council Member Emerson DeLaney, R-5th, for his part, was of two minds. “I am
pleased that the Pavilion is getting fixed but I still have mixed emotions
about the new addition,” he said.
president of the Northwest Indiana Forum, spoke on the other hand of a real
need for the banquet facility. “We definitely have leakage,” she said, her
term for the business lost by “people looking for lakefront venues and going
elsewhere.” And “we definitely have a leakage of lakefront dining. This is
our best resource and not being able to have a decent meal on the beach is a
What the people who
expressed varying levels of support for the project did not, however,
tend to discuss was the feeling among many that the DNR has deliberately
excluded the public from the process.
It was on that
ground chiefly that Save the Dunes came out this morning against the
And it is on that
ground that opponents appear to hope to founder it. Jim Sweeney, president
of the Porter County Chapter of the Izaak Walton League, promised that his
organization, joined by others, is taking a fine-tooth comb to the proposal
process, to discover whether the DNR adhered to its own regulations, whether
the DNR is holding itself to a looser standard than the one it applies to
others seeking permitting.
Thus, for instance,
Sweeney is interested in what environmental impact study or statement there
might be with respect to the project, whether the DNR has studied the
possible impact of the building on migrating bird populations, whether it
has a plan for disposing of sewage. “I understand they don’t have the
capacity for their current biosolids,” he said.
confident that a project of this scope would require public comment,”
Sweeney added. “But if that doesn’t’ work, we’ll be making sure that the
banquet center is the epitome of environmentally sensitive building.”
Outside the Visitor
Center, Dr. Desi Robertson was inviting attendees to sign her petition
calling on the DNR to cancel plans for the banquet center. “Most people are
in favor of renovating the Pavilion,” she said. “It’s the additional
monstrosity people didn’t know about.”
Robertson told the Tribune that 98 people to date have signed the
petition, which is unaffiliated with any formal organization.
Those wishing to
comment further on the project may do so by e-mailing the DNR at
comments, and the DNR’s responses will be periodically combined and posted
on the Dunes State Park webpage at