Chesterton Tribune

Friends of Indiana Dunes marks 30 years, looks to future

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A new look and a new outlook came with the 30-year celebration for the Friends of Indiana Dunes on Saturday at the Westchester Public Library Service Center.

About 80 members gathered in the afternoon for a summer buffet and fellowship in anticipation of getting a glimpse of the new Friends logo unveiled by members Angel Gochee-Goins, Wendy Smith, Dorothy Meyers, president Zella Olson and Dunes interpreter Brad Bumgardner.

Bumgardner, who the group asked to create the logo, incorporated three elements into the image – the waters of Lake Michigan, the sandy shoreline with its richly diverse plant life and its pine trees.

The logo was designed to reflect on the resource management efforts the Friends have accomplished such as the planting of millions of marram grass plugs, Gochee-Goins said. She thought up the new slogan “Enhancing the Visitor Experience Today and Tomorrow.”

Olson embraced the logo as the start of a new chapter for the Friends group in its relationships with the National Park Service and Dunes State Park. New changes to park policies caused a few issues, but Olson said those are being resolved and the Friends can move “up and onward” in its’ mission to foster an appreciation and enjoyment of the Indiana Dunes.

“We’re at the point where we want to move forward. We feel that we need to bring a new image and new recognition to get people involved so they can get as excited about the Indiana Dunes as we are,” Olson told the group.

The Friends’ new direction got started with building a larger Internet presence to catch the attention of a younger demographic and people living all over the country. Olson said a revamp of the Friends’ website at, is underway and a brand new Facebook page is being created to keep members in touch with what is going on within the group. The social networking website will be essential in passing on the Friends’ mission to future generations, Olson said and she encouraged members to give it a try.

“We want to educate and interpret the Dunes to the younger people,” she said.

The Friends of the Indiana Dunes started with a group of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore volunteers in 1982 who believed they could help the park educate more people about the Dunes by holding different events.

In 1986, the Friends of Indiana Dunes incorporated as a 501(C)3 non-profit organization that could collect tax-deductible donations and support the Indiana Dunes State Park. Year-round events were created, such as the annual Sand Sculpture Contest, Christmas at the Dunes, the Saw-whet Owl Banding program, the Aldo Leopold Bench Workshops, the Dunes Harvest Festival, summer nature camps, “Howl”oween in the Dunes, and the Native Plant Sale, among others.

Roughly a dozen members presented special memories, stories, artwork and photography.

Past Friends president Don Mohar thanked the members for all the effort they put forth at the plant sales and reflected on how he got involved after spotting the group at the Dunes when he’d just moved to the area.

One former student of Friends of the Indiana Dunes course instructor Emma Pitcher was Susan Bagby who said she had lived with her parents at their house on Furnessville Road without ever thinking twice about the natural world around her until learning ecology from Pitcher.

“She opened up my eyes to a whole new world that I had been walking right past,” said Bagby.

Friends member and retired teacher Doris Baker said she would hike out to the Miller Beach with her class from Hammond Schools to study ecology and was inspired by former Indiana University Northwest Professor Mark Reshkin who would photograph the Dunes during different seasons to observe the visual changes.

The audience was treated to two poetry readings, one from Chesterton High School student Kalvin Ravn sharing his poem “Mercury Pollution in Our Water” and Randall Nicholas reading his poem “Chivalry.”

Local storyteller Art Willing regaled the crowd with the “first story he ever told” as a Friends of Indiana Dunes member, an anecdote about an agitated farmer, his wife and horse.

Bumgardner commended the programs that are bringing people to the parks like the Sand Sculpture Contest that was held earlier on Saturday that saw 300 participants. The programs, he said, demonstrate that people have different uses for the park and that there are many stories to tell. “We are helping people love the Dunes,” Bumgardner said.

Ecologist Noel Pavlovic gave the history of people’s use of the Indiana Dunes and added that the Park has 1,184 plant species on 16,000 acres of land, the highest diversity in the Midwest. Pavlovic lauded the Friends for sharing its cumulative and complex knowledge of the Dunes and other benefits it provides to the community.

Members in attendance each received a notebook with an outline of the new logo. Some audience members were lucky enough to take home a centerpiece fashioned by Shady Lawn Florist and artwork by photographer John A. Roquet, of Porter.

To further celebrate the 30th anniversary there will be a free event for the public Saturday, Sept. 22, at Wilson Shelter at the Dunes State Park from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.


Posted 7/16/2012