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
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,”
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.