Chesterton Tribune



Shelf ice sparks winter tourism here

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Even in the midst of one of the most bone-chilling winters on record, folks far and wide are going to the beach.

The pockets of extreme cold have created a vast layer of shelf ice on Lake Michigan, creating awe-inspiring visuals as well as a new wave of tourism in Porter County.

“It allowed us to have a winter season,” said Ken Kosky, promotions director for the Porter County Convention, Recreation and Visitors Commission.

The agency has highlighted other winter activities on its website such as cross-country skiing at the Dunes and the National Lakeshore. Sledding is another popular activity at a number of local parks like Countryside Park in Portage and Forrest Park in Valparaiso.

At Thursday’s PCCRVC meeting, tourism officials shared the video created by Thad Donovan of Smith Donovan Marketing and Communications in Chesterton featuring aerial views of the shelf ice. The video has also been used on almost all the major Chicago news stations

With permission from state park officials, Donovan took video of the shelf ice using a remote control Drone and offered to let the tourism bureau use the video on its blog.

PCCRVC Executive Director Lorelei Weimer said the video has an estimated 1.6 million “impressions”, or the number of views by computer and TV. She added that the tourism bureau has seen a more than 3 percent increase in its “click-through rate” which measures the success of a website’s marketing abilities.

Weimer reminds Dunes visitors that the shelf ice is extremely dangerous to walk on because the ice is not uniform and could give way. It is advised to observe the shelf ice formations from the safety of the beach.

The 3 Dune Challenge

Getting in on the emerging trend of “Adventure Travel,” Weimer talked about a new promotion that the tourism bureau wants to have ready by summer for Dunes Park Trail 8.

The 1.5 mile trail claims the three tallest dunes in the park - Mt. Tom, Mt. Holden, and Mt. Jackson - all of which surpass Mt. Baldy in the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Weimer said.

The PCCRVC looks to promote the challenge in the local and external media, she said. “This really showcases these three dunes for the first time.”

A webpage on the Indiana Dunes Tourism website will also be launched when the revamped trail is open.

Stickers and t-shirts will be available at the Visitors Center for those who conquer the challenge.

New information signs explaining the map and what the challenge is about will be installed. One of them will be at the Dunes Nature Center which is the official starting point of the trail.

The tourism bureau is also working with Smith Donovan on making a video for the promotion.

DNR award

Weimer announced the PCCRVC, along with the Town of Porter, won a Partnership Award from the Department of Natural Resources last week recognizing their partnership in connecting the Dunes-Kankakee Trail from Dunes State Park to the nearby South Shore Train Station.

The nomination, which was unexpected Weimer said, was made by Indiana Dunes Property Manager Brandt Baughman.

In other matters:

-- Weimer expressed enthusiasm for the National Parks Service selection of Paul Labovitz as the new superintendent of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Labovitz is currently the superintendent of Mississippi National River and Recreation Area in St. Paul, Minn. He is taking the reins from retired superintendent Costa Dillon and will start his new assignment on May 18.

-- PCCRVC Assistant Director Christine Livingston showed the board birding backpacks that will be available for loan at the visitor center free of charge. Each pack will containing birding books and binoculars. This is part of the revamp for the 2014 birding campaign which also includes new interpretive signage. The funding comes from the Friends of the Dunes Indiana Group and is part of Beyond the Beach Discovery Trail initiative.

-- Online video promotions for all communities in Porter County are nearly ready to be launched. Weimer said the response from the Valparaiso and Portage City Councils have been very positive about their videos. She said the Chesterton video from last year will be updated.

-- Convention, Sports & Leisure International is finalizing phase two of the County’s comprehensive sports study and analysis. It is also wrapping up the feasibility study on the County Expo Center.

-- Weimer met with the group of officials working on the south portion of the Dunes-Kankakee Trail connecting communities from Dunes State Park all the way south to Kouts and the Kankakee River. There will be spurs connecting to Dunn’s Bridge and the new county park on Ind. 49 near Kouts.

-- New wayfinding signs for bike routes around the county are replacing the ones that have been knocked over by snow plows. Also, the bike route on CR 700N is being relocated to a safer route.

-- PCCRVC board member Scott Tuft read the Treasurer’s Report. The January 2014 collection check was $109,495 which is a year-to-date increase of 41.5 percent, on a cash basis, over 2013. The February collection check was $70,657 which is a 26 percent YTD increase in cash basis over 2013.



Posted 3/24/2014




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