Chesterton Tribune

Citizens can speak out on NPS plan to close Tremont and Furnessville roads

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The Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore is looking to close a number of county roads to add more amenities for its guests, and the Porter County Board of Commissioners wants to hear what the public has to say about it.

The commissioners will conduct a public hearing during their April 3 meeting at 2 p.m. regarding the request by the National Lakeshore to close roads located in the Lakeshore boundaries still maintained by the county.

Lakeshore Deputy Superintendent Garry Traynham told the Chesterton Tribune the roads or stretches of roads in the requests do not have any occupied residences on them and most of the roads will be converted to trails for walking, bicycling and or horseback riding.

“We are now seeking to expand the opportunity for the public to enjoy this park by closing unneeded roads that cost the county money to maintain by converting other roads to trails,” Traynham said.

In its request, the National Parks Service grouped the roads into three categories. First, there are the roads that are found on county plat maps but no longer exist either due to removal or lack of paving. They have no vehicular access and park officials said transferring them to the NPS will not change because they are not accessible to residents. The roads in this group include: Parkwood Avenue, Dunewood Avenue, Arab Drive, Dunewood Street, Oakwood Street, Elwood Street and Poplar Street.

The second group includes roads that still exist but have no private property serviced by them according to NPS. The roads have become areas for to illegal activities such as dumping. The NPS said the transfers would not inconvenience any member of the public and converting them to trails would reduce criminal activity. Group 2 roads are: Pottawatomie Road, Hawleywood Road (north leg) and roads in the Pottawatomie Vista.

Having control over the roads would allow the Lakeshore to increase its enforcement, Traynham said. NPS officials discussed the potential operations with Porter County Sheriff David Lain who Trayhnam said is in support of the effort.

Roads in Group 3 run from north to south between U.S. 20 and U.S. 12. The NPS contends that because it owns most of the lands along U.S. 12 “there is no significant need for the public to use these roads where the roads are within the national lakeshore.” The agency said Ind. 49 could provide access between the two highways and closing these roads would save the county money in road maintenance and snow plowing. Group 3 roads are: 50 East (N. Main Street) where it enters the national lakeshore north of 3rd Street, Tremont Road (CR 100 East) north of Hawleywood Road.

The National Lakeshore’s general management plan identified closing these roads in 1997 and was supported by public comment. Closing the portion of Tremont Road will facilitate the adjoining Pottawatomie Road in a walking trail “making it safer public area,” said the NPS.

Tremont Road is connected to Canonie Road where Discovery Charter School is located before it reaches the park’s boundary.

Also according to the general management plan, the NPS will be closing its portion of Furnessville Road. to motor traffic this spring and will convert the road to trails, Traynham said. Two roads running north-south that intersect with Furnessville Road, a portion of 150 East (Hadenfeldt Road) and 200 East (Veden Road), will become dead ends when the NPS closes Furnessville Road. The NPS said closing these roads where they enter the park boundary “is the most practical alternative,” adding that drivers will have limited space to turn around if left open.

County Commissioner President John Evans, R-North, who turned down the requests at a commissioners’ meeting March 6 citing sympathies to those who had homes in the area, said he would like to hear what the public before reconsidering the matter.

Evans said he is in favor of some of the roads being closed that have no purpose like Pottawatomie Road but said there are still roads being used by residents to get to their place of work or to get to businesses. He said he does not remember giving the NPS permission to close Furnessville Rd.

“I’m trying to keep an open mind,” Evans said. “I think (the roads) should remain open to give our citizens the luxury of using them.”

The public hearing will take place in the Commissioner’s Chambers located in the Porter County Administration Building at 155 Indiana Ave. in Valparaiso.

In a letter to Evans, Dunes National Lakeshore Superintendent Constantine Dillon said the county is fortunate to have a national park within in it as it is a “regional asset and economic driver” and stated cooperation with the county is critical to create a broader visitor appeal. He also took time in his letter to the commissioners to thank those who have given their properties to the national park since its establishment in 1966.

“We fully recognize that people who used to live in these areas are sentimentally attached to their former homes. We want to honor and thank those, like hundreds of Americans across the country, whose property became part of a national park. Their contributions make this park possible,” Dillon said.

Evans said an additional public hearing may be held at a later date in the evening hours depending on the reception at the April 3 meeting.

Since 2007, the NPS has closed several roads with the county such as South State Park Road and Teale Road. More have been closed with the cooperation of Portage and Beverly Shores and have improved public safety and natural resource preservation, the NPS said.



Posted 3/29/2012