Chesterton Tribune



NPS fences off storm damaged sand-starved dunes at Portage site

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Visitors and Ogden Dunes residents are being asked to stay out of fenced areas at the Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk, after National Park Service (NPS) staff installed the fencing to help stabilize the dunes there following a damaging storm in October 2014.

“Huge waves” raised by that storm washed away between 75 and 115 feet of beach and dune at this Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore site, and NPS is hopeful that the fencing will reduce the impact of future storms on this stretch of beach.

“Portions of the National Lakeshore, including Portage Lakefront, are particularly vulnerable to erosion from storm waves because their beaches have become narrower due to ‘sand-starvation,’” NPS said. “This situation is caused by nearby harbor structures that prevent the normal cycle of sand deposition onto the beach. The National Lakeshore’s Shoreline Restoration and Management Plan calls for 74,000 cubic yards of sand to be placed on the Portage Lakefront beach each year to replace what is being intercepted by the harbor structure.”

With no immediate funding, however, currently available for placing sand on the beach, “stabilizing the dunes becomes even more critical to protecting the shoreline at Portage Lakefront,” NPS notes. “Dune grass, and other vegetation, is necessary to stabilize dunes. The new fencing is designed to keep visitors from leaving the beach and designated walkways and trampling the dune’s vegetation.”

“More than 135,000 people visited Portage Lakefront in 2014 and damage to dune vegetation is evident,” NPS added. “This spring, park staff counted 38 illegal trails where dune vegetation had been killed by people trampling it along a stretch of beach that is only 2/10th of a mile long. If this damage is not stabilized with dune grass, a blow-out is likely to occur placing the stability of the surrounding area at risk, including the Portage Lakefront’s pavilion and nearby private property in the Town of Ogden Dunes.”

“In addition to protecting property, stabilizing this area will also help protect the area’s natural resources,” NPS said. “Despite being just over 100 acres, Portage Lakefront is home to thirty species of rare plants, including one, the Pitcher’s thistle, that is on the Federal Endangered Species List.”

NPS is right now investigating the possibility of designating a trail from Ogden Dunes into the Portage Lakefront area. But until such a trail is designated, “access to Portage Lakefront must be made using existing designated trails and roads,” NPS said. “Anyone caught in closed areas is subject to ticket or arrest. All visitors are urged to do their part in helping to protect these important, but very fragile dunes.”

For more information about Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, contact the park’s information desk at (219) 395-1882 or visit the webpage at



Posted 5/26/2015




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