Chesterton Tribune

 

 

Mt. Baldy Beach, but not the Dune, to reopen this summer

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By KEVIN NEVERS

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.

Two subsequent 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 closed.

“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.”

 

Posted 5/4/2017

 

 
 
 
 

 

 

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