Chesterton Tribune



National groups call for halt of Dunes Pavilion project

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The Washington, D.C.-based Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) and the Izaak Walton League of America have joined Dunes Action in demanding a stop to construction at the Indiana Dunes State Park pending a National Environmental Policy Act review.

Both organizations recently sent letters to the National Park Service, stating the project violates the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) Act of 1965’s prohibition of converting the property to non-public outdoor recreational use. PEER also corresponded with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources on this topic.

“DNR’s stated reason of waiting until building plans are finalized before seeking NPS approval cannot be reconciled with the fact that construction has already begun on the pavilion,” PEER Senior Counsel Paula Dinerstein wrote to Cameron Sholly, National Park Service Midwest Regional Director.

Pending its review, “NPS must notify the state and preclude further conversion, use, and occupancy of the area.”

Saying that there has been no formal NPS approval of the conversion activity, she added, “If this is not the case, please provide documentation showing otherwise.”

Scott Kovarovics, Executive Director of the Izaak Walton League of America, also asked NPS Director Jon Jarvis to immediately halt construction and further urged the park service “not to approve conversion of the Indiana Dunes State Park Pavilion and nearby public lands from public outdoor recreation use to a private banquet and conference facility.”

“We are very thankful to have assistance from both of these prestigious organizations in calling for a stop to this project while a proper review is done,” said Dunes Action Co-founder Desi Robertson.

Jim Sweeney, President of the Porter County Chapter of the Izaak Walton League, first reported the apparent federal violation to the NPS in May.

Sweeney said the League has been actively working on public conservation issues since 1922. “And PEER doesn’t mess around Đ they have been very successful at litigating violations of public land policies. We feel this case at the Dunes State Park can be precedent setting.”

The LWCF was enacted to support the acquisition of public lands and conservation easements for outdoor recreation and to provide grant funds for the acquisition and development of state and local parks and other outdoor recreational facilities. Indiana Dunes State Park has received a number of these grants over the years.

Parks that have used the funds are intended to be reserved in perpetuity for public outdoor recreational use.

Dunes ACTION! is a non-partisan coalition opposed to the plan by the DNR to allow a private development company to build and operate a conference/banquet center on the lakefront at the Indiana Dunes State Park.


Posted 9/24/2015




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