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
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
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
The discontinuance of the annual pass is system-wide, Goins added.
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
•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
•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 deadline for submitting comments on the new fees is 12 p.m. Wednesday,
Sept. 22. They may be sent electronically to
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.