Chesterton Tribune                                                                                   Adv.

Dunes Lakeshore to discontinue $20 annual pass to West Beach next year

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By KEVIN NEVERS

It’s going to be more expensive next year for West Beach habitués.

The National Park Service (NPS) plans to discontinue the sale of the $20 annual pass available to regular users of West Beach in Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, after NPS determined that annual passes “are not appropriate” for the so-called “expanded amenity fee.”

That news from an open house Monday night held by NPS at the Dorothy Buell Memorial Visitor Center to solicit public comment on a number of proposed new services at the National Lakeshore—and on those services’ associated fees.

Motorists using West Beach will pay, beginning next season, the daily $6 “expanded amenity” fee, no matter how often they visit the facility between the Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends.

Meanwhile, the National Park Service is seeking permission to drop the $1 fee for bicyclists and pedestrians.

As Cliff Goins of NPS explained, the daily $6 fee at West Beach is not an entrance fee, since technically there is no formal entrance to the National Lakeshore. Nor is it, strictly speaking, a parking fee. It is, in fact, an expanded amenity fee, Goins said, established to offset the cost of West Beach’s expanded amenities: its lifeguards, for instance, and its bathhouse.

The discontinuance of the annual pass is system-wide, Goins added.

Proposed New Services

Meanwhile, Monday’s open house—although it failed to attract any members of the public at all over the first scheduled hour—did explain in detail five new proposed services at the National Lakeshore and the anticipated fees for those services:

•A fee of $5 per car would be established for special interpretive programs like this past weekend’s Duneland Heritage Days at the Chellberg Farm and Bailly Homestead. That fee would offset the costs of those programs, “offered so visitors can have more in-depth experiences at the park.”

•A fee of $30 per night would be established for a new primitive group camping site to be developed at a previously disturbed site in the National Lakeshore. That site—with access to water and restrooms—would accommodate groups larger than the eight-person per site limit currently in effect at the Dunewood Campground. “A group campsite is something we’ve needed for years,” Assistant Superintendent Gary Traynham said. “With only 66 sites at the Dunewood Campground, it only takes one Boy Scout troop or church group to quickly fill the campsite.”

•A fee of $250 per day would allow a group’s day-use, for meetings and other appropriate activities, of some of the historic properties at the National Lakeshore.

•A fee of $5 per day would allow visitors to secure their kayaks in lockers on shore while spending the night at a nearby campground.

•And a $250 per day fee would be established for the day-use of the Portage Lakefront and River Walk Pavilion by appropriate groups, say, for weddings. Funds collected from this fee would be deposited in a dedicated account and used for the maintenance of the site, which is owned by NPS but operated by the City of Portage.

Over the last couple of years, Traynham noted, NPS has maintained a system-wide moratorium both on new fees and fee increases, but last spring issued word to its parks that it would be amenable to consider such “if there were compelling issues that needed looking at.”

“We feel the time is right to look at some of these opportunities—like the group campground—but we don’t necessarily have the budget in place to fund them,” Traynham said.

Traynham did say that all of the new fees were determined through a comparison of those charged for similar services by other national parks in the region.

The deadline for submitting comments on the new fees is 12 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 22. They may be sent electronically to IND_Communications@NPS.gov

The fees, Traynham emphasized, are only proposed at this point. The proposal itself, with accompanying public input, will be submitted to the NPS regional office in Omaha, Neb., later this fall, which will package the proposal and forward it to NPS headquarters in Washington, D.C.

NPS would not be approving the fees per se, Traynahm said, but would only be giving the National Lakeshore the authority to establish them. If the National Lakeshore does receive that authority, it would take effect on Jan. 1.

 

 

Posted 9/21/2010

 

 

 

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