Chesterton Tribune



Heavy hitters weigh in on Dunes State Park project

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Opposition to the proposed construction of a banquet center at Indiana Dunes State Park continues to grow among the state’s environmental organizations who have been joined by a prominent consumer group.

Today the Hoosier Environmental Council and the Hoosier Sierra Club released a joint statement with the Citizens Action Coalition, a utility watchdog, formally taking a position against the DNR’s plan to lease land next to the Pavilion at the Dunes State Park beach to private developers.

All three voiced support instead for the simple renovation of the Pavilion, what they call a “compromise” which would have “limited adverse impacts to the park, its visitors, and the natural resources it protects.”

The DNR’s contract with Pavilion Partners LLC to rehab the Pavilion, then build a comfort center to the west and a banquet center to the east, would “harm the park’s beach environment by contributing more light pollution at night, creating an attractive--even deadly--nuisance for birds given the banquet hall’s huge glass windows, and setting the stage for more beach-front development in the form of a hotel and marina (described in the developer’s original proposal as possible future projects at the site).”

The three organizations specifically accuse the DNR of “touting the project as a Pavilion re-use” but omitting to inform the public of the plan to build a banquet center.

This was intentionally misleading on their part to keep the public out of the process after their experience in 2006,” said Bowden Quinn, chapter director of the Sierra Club’s Hoosier Chapter, referring to the organized opposition nine years ago to the DNR’s proposal to build a hotel in the same general area. The DNR withdrew that proposal after failing to attract potential vendors to the project.

Here is yet another conversion of public land to benefit private development interests,” said Tim Maloney, senior policy director for the Hoosier Environmental Council. “Dunes State Park and its beach are public lands and held in trust for the people of Indiana. With this project the developers will retain the majority of profits from the project, while paying a very cheap lease payment--no more than a family would pay for a four-bedroom home--for as long as 65 years.”

Citizens Action Coalition Executive-Director Kerwin Olson, for his part, criticized a lack of transparency in the plan. “The DNR and the developers have been negotiating this deal since 2012,” he said. “The public should have been advised then about the new building,” plans for which were announced only in February and only after the Chesterton Tribune made inquiries about ongoing construction work at the Pavilion.

The fact that the DNR would even consider building a new banquet hall with huge windows on the beach there shows how poorly thought out this was,” said Maloney. “The DNR just built a beautiful bird observation platform at the park, and now they are adding a new structure that may become a major bird hazard.”

The Lake Michigan shoreline is critically important to millions of migratory birds, which use the shoreline as an important resting area,” the statement noted.

The paltry amount of money the DNR will get from putting a private banquet hall on the most desirable real estate on Lake Michigan in Indiana amounts to a give-away of public land,” added Quinn. “We strongly object to DNR's secrecy, lack of transparency, and failure to get adequate public participation, which are vital to any proposal to increase human impacts on our state's precious natural areas.”

The organizations are encouraging letters, e-mails, and phone calls to Governor Pence to cancel this project. Contact information can be found at



Posted 5/8/2015




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