The Region lost out
on $800,000 in sorely needed funding for an Army Corps of Engineers study on
beach erosion, Executive Director of Indiana Dunes Tourism Lorelei Weimer
told the Tourism Board at its meeting yesterday.
Weimer said State
Senator Karen Tallian (D-Ogden Dunes) had been determined to get $800,000
earmarked in the biennial budget--$400,000 this year and $400,00 next
year--to fund a local match for the $1.6 million study, the goal of which is
to find a long-term solution for rapid and damaging erosion at the Indiana
Dunes National Park beaches.
The Senate approved
the measure, but it didn’t survive final changes to the budget bill, Weimer
said. “We were told that if Senator Tallian got it in on the Senate side, it
would stay in,” Weimer said. “No one is letting us know who took it out, but
it was taken out at the last minute.”
The lack of state
support puts Tourism and the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA),
which it has partnered with in the lobby for funding, back at square one for
finding a total of $1.2 million-- $800,000 for the study and the rest for
immediate beach nourishment, according to Weimer.
Weimer said the
study will take two to three years to complete, even if expedited. “We can’t
access any federal funds at all unless we do that study,” she added.
So far, Portage and
Ogden Dunes have pledged a total local match of $250,000.
at the Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk is still worsening after the collapse
of an observation deck in January 2018.
Weimer said two
handicap accessible paths have been lost to erosion, and the park’s pavilion
could be next. “We’re very concerned that a $60 million asset could wash
The focus for
Tourism is back to awareness, for the time being.
In January, Dunes
Tourism announced Weimer was working with the NPCA to create a video to show
state legislators what’s going on at the Lakefront. Weimer said yesterday
that her new goal is updating that video to show today’s conditions.
Weimer said a
representative from U.S. Senator Todd Young’s (R) office recently visited
the Portage site, and Dunes Tourism also hosted Lieutenant Governor Suzanne
Crouch. Along with the National Park, they arranged for Crouch to view the
shrinking shoreline by boat.
visitation at the National Park is up 27% since the name change, despite the
problems at the Portage facilities, and she expects the trend to continue
“We just got this
great status. We’re a National Park, but at the same time, we’ve got a huge
erosion issue,” Weimer said.