Chesterton Tribune



Izaak Walton opposes banquet center next to State Park Pavilion

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One of Northwest Indiana’s premier conservationist groups has gone on the record against the planned construction by Pavilion Partners LLC of a 30,000-square foot conference center next to the Pavilion on the beach at Indiana Dunes State Park (IDSP).

The Indiana Division of the Izaak Walton League of America (IWLA) formally opposed the conference center at its quarterly meeting in South Bend on Saturday, according to a statement released after deadline on Tuesday.

“We support the renovation of the old pavilion at the State Park but we feel like we have been bushwhacked by plans for a new building next to it,” Porter County Chapter Jim Sweeney said. “We are not willing to trade some of the public beach for a private conference center, more parking, and booze on the beach, no way.”

The IWLA’s Porter County Chapter was founded in 1958 specifically “to help promote the protection of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and the League has a 93-year history of expanding and protecting public lands,” the statement noted.

“We need to see what the state wants to do and how they want to do it,” Indiana Division President Tim Russell said. “Right now, it sounds like an eyesore on one of the most beautiful beaches in the state.”

“We didn’t know this new building was being proposed,” Russell added.

“If they want to build a new conference center, they can buy some new land for it and add it to the park,” Sweeney said. “We don’t want to give up any park land for it.”

IWLA “will be asking for a meeting with the DNR Division of State Parks immediately,” the statement said.

Renovation of the Pavilion itself began on Feb. 19, as part of the developer’s plans to operate a casual-dining venue on the first floor and a fine-dining restaurant on the second floor and roof. Deb Butterfield, a spokesperson for Pavilion Partners, told the Chesterton Tribune on Feb. 27 that sometime this year work on the Pavilion should be done and the restaurant opened.

As of two weeks ago, however, the design of the conference/banquet center had not yet been completed and Butterfield was calling the plans still “fluid.” This much is known: the conference center will be built on already existing concrete and asphalt to the east of the Pavilion, each of its three floors will be 10,000 square feet, the structure will be elevated, and the first floor will have an open layout similar to the Pavilion’s.

IDSP Property Manager Brandt Baughman said that visitors will still be able to see Lake Michigan from the parking lot to the south of the conference center.

Butterfield described Pavilion Partners LLC this way: it’s “an investment group that has assembled a team of expert talent to renovate the Indiana Dunes Park Pavilion and additional conference/banquet center through a public/private partnership with the State of Indiana. Specifically, the team is experienced in historic building renovation, restaurant, banquet center, and event management, and has had a significant presence in the food, beverage, and tourism industry of Northwest Indiana.”



Posted 3/11/2015




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