The National Park
Service (NPS) has made the decision to re-open Mt. Baldy Beach at Indiana
Dunes National Lakeshore.
Mt. Baldy Dune
itself, on the other hand, will remain closed to the public, after two
separate scientific studies concluded that more holes are likely to open on
the dune, of the sort which swallowed a boy four years ago.
An actual date for
the re-opening of Mt. Baldy Beach has yet to be scheduled, though. “The best
answer: sometime this summer,” National Lakeshore spokesman Bruce Rowe told
the Chesterton Tribune on Wednesday.
“Ideally we’d open
it up in time for the beginning of the summer swim season,” Rowe noted.
Before that can happen, however, NPS needs to construct what Rowe described
as a “sand ramp” to replace the old stairway leading down to the beach from
the trail. That stairway was swept away several years ago by an autumn
storm, leaving a 15- to 20-foot drop-off.
And before NPS can
deploy the heavy equipment necessary to construct the ramp, an
archaeological survey and a bat survey need to be completed, to ensure that
no important artifacts or bat species would be impacted by the project, Rowe
said. “Some time will be involved with those surveys. And then the findings
of the archaeological survey have to be forwarded to the Indiana State
Historical Preservation Office for review.”
A rare plant survey
has already been conducted at the site, Rowe added.
Mt. Baldy Dune and
Beach were both closed in July 2013, after a 6-year-old Illinois boy fell
into a hole which opened on the dune and was then buried beneath 11 feet of
sand. The boyÑwho managed to find an air pocket in the sand tombÑwas saved
three hours later through the heroic efforts of first-responders.
studies of the Mt. Baldy Dune using ground penetrating radarÑone by Indiana
University Northwest, the other by the Indiana Geological SurveyÑdetermined
that the hole which swallowed the boy and others discovered in the dune were
cavities left in the sand by decaying trees. Both studies concluded that
more holes are likely to be exposed as Mt. Baldy continues its gradual
migration to the south, Rowe said, and for that reason the dune will remain
“The trick will be
to keep people on the beach and off the dune,” Rowe noted. Barriers will be
installed, as will signage advising visitors both of the dangers of climbing
Mt. Baldy Dune and of the threat which foot traffic up and on the dune poses
to vegetation planted to stabilize it.
“Staff will patrol
as well,” Rowe said, “to explain what’s going on and discourage folks from
climbing the dune.”