Chesterton Tribune


County Tourism board exploring education to prevent lake drownings

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Porter County Convention Recreation and Visitors Commission member Judy Chaplin apologized to her fellow board members Tuesday for “beating a dead horse” as she revisited an earlier discussion of taking preventative measures to guard against drownings at Lake Michigan.

Due to a sudden increase in the number of drowning deaths this summer, Chaplin urged her peers at the July PCCRVC meeting to help educate the public about the dangers of swimming in hazardous waters.

A month later, Mike Bremer of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore met with board members and shared statistics that indicated the primary cause of drownings is not rip currents but visitors not adhering to warnings given by park officials or failing to supervise children.

Education, Bremer said, is the most effective way to stop accidental drownings. The Lakeshore will create a video series illustrating safety precautions that will be distributed to schools. The park’s other goal will be to form an effective way to educate parents who ultimately make the decision on going to the beach even when there are dangers present, Bremer said.

National Lakeshore Deputy Superintendent Garry Traynham told the Chesterton Tribune this morning said the national park has a good water safety program, trying to keep people out of the water when lake conditions are risky.

He said the agency looks forward to collaborating with the county tourism board and other agencies on ways to further enhance safety for visitors.

“We will be meeting with the DNR (Department of Natural Resources) in the winter,” Traynham said, adding that education will play a big role.

Just this week, reports came out about a near drowning in Michigan City, causing Chaplin to resound her call. She pushed the idea of making materials available that expound on “the three most important things to remember while swimming in Lake Michigan” which agencies and businesses could pass out to Dune’s visitors.

“We have an opportunity to reach out and make an impact. If it saves one life ... hallelujah!” said Chaplin.

PCCRVC president Mitch Peters said he believes the park officials of the state park and National Lakeshore “have done a fabulous job” in alerting people about dangers in the water. As a board, Peters said the PCCRVC wants to reach out to county residents and contact local schools to supply safety information geared to the young swimmers.

"We need to look at what kinds of things we can do with education and try to get something going,” Peters said.

Travel writers visit

Porter County

This week, in the Hoosier capital city of Indianapolis, about 260 journalists and media specialists who make it their trade to highlight tourist destinations are congregating for the Society of American Travel Writers conference.

And Indiana Dunes Tourism is getting in on the action.

It was one of the five tourism agencies selected to host travel writers in their home community before and after the convention.

Weimer said two writers from New York City visited this past weekend starting at the Dunes. One of the writers is a regular contributor with USA Today.

Weimer said she didn’t know how the scribes would take to the Dunes but as luck had it the views were top-notch that morning and the skyline of Chicago was clearly visible – “crystal clear.”

“We just scored a home run with these writers,” Weimer said.

Following the Dunes trip, one writer – an automobile enthusiast -- was intrigued by the car shops in the county. They were also treated to Bass Pro Shop in Portage and Valpo Velvet Ice Cream in Valparaiso and the 49er Drive-in Theater in Liberty Twp.

Another writer will visit this weekend around the same time the Wizard of Oz Festival is going on in Chesterton.

The PCCRVC had the honor of sponsoring the SATW’s breakfast on Tuesday and the bureau’s promotions director Ken Kosky will spend the full week networking with the convention attendees.

“Those writers are going to be talking about our destinations,” Weimer said.

In a similar matter, PCCRVC Assistant Director Christine Livingston said the Indianapolis Star ran a piece about the Dunes and Chesterton’s European Market. Another article appeared in the Chicago Tribune about the Valparaiso Popcorn Festival.

Mannel to be remembered

For 12 years, those who stopped in at the Indiana Dunes visitor center were greeted by a small man with a big heart for the Dunes.

The PCCRVC’s beloved hospitality concierge Jim Mannel died last Tuesday, at the age of 78.

Patti Boyer, operations director for the PCCRVC, read the board a tribute to Mannel. Boyd said Mannel always stayed on task and never grew tired of telling folks where the Dunes are, again and again.

“He made it sound like he was answering it for the first time,” said Boyd.

Weimer said Mannel was “extremely passionate” about the park and education.

“He loved just to tell interesting things to find in the Dunes,” Weimer said, and mentioned that Mannel was a recipient of the Lieutenant Governor’s Hospitality Award.

In the upcoming fall or spring, a tree will be planted at the visitor center in Mannel’s honor. Peters suggested the idea of having a plaque made to further commemorate Mannel.

Kids guide

A new Kids Guide publication hits the selves this month. The booklet is similar to the activities guide the PCCRVC produces each year, but focus on with events and destinations targeted toward youngsters.

Much of the design work was completed in-house by Niche Market Director Angela Pasyk which resulted in significant savings for the organization.

The guide can be downloaded off the website

In other matters Tuesday:

• In August, 13,601 individuals dropped by the Visitor Center in August. That brings the year-to-date figure to 61,113, Boyer said.

• Weimer reported the web site for the Memorial Opera House is currently being “beta tested” and should be launched in the next three days.

• For organizations holding events in Porter County, applications for 2013 PCCRVC grants are due by this Friday, Sept. 14.



Posted 9/12/2012