Chesterton Tribune

Branded: Porter now the Front Porch to the Dunes

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Duneland Chamber of Commerce executive director Heather Ennis pulled a full-size wooden Adirondack chair to the front of the Porter town hall for a reason Tuesday.

It was to introduce a town branding committee’s recommendation that the chair be incorporated into a new logo for Porter when marketing itself as the “Front Porch to the Dunes.”

After hearing presentations by Porter County tourism executive director Lorelei Weimer and Porter resident Nick Tilden, the Town Council voted 5-0 to adopt the logo, tag line and to support the10-member branding committee’s continued efforts .

Weimer said the initiative was begun 18 months ago by the Porter County Convention, Recreation and Visitor Commission to develop sites and marketing ideas that would encourage more of the 3 million annual visitors to the Indiana Dunes to stay here for multiple nights, not just a day trip.

Even though the Duneland area functions as one community, each participating town needs to distinguish itself with a tourism identity, the council was told, and Porter’s brand should be about family.

And the perfect place for families to gather is Hawthorne Park, only blocks away from Porter’s downtown.

Tilden said increasing tourism will spur economic development and enhance business success. By capturing only 5 percent of the 3 million visitors, he and Wiemer said, that could translate into $20 million in local tourism spending.

By focusing on Porter’s downtown, Hawthorne Park and the Indiana Dunes state and federal parks while establishing viable connectivity between them with sidewalks, trails and even a shuttle, continued Tilden, with a few key enhancements Porter can offer visitors even more.

For Hawthorne, his committee suggested adding a splash pool/skating rink; an outdoor performance area; bicycle/rollerblade rentals to capitalize on planned hike/bike trails; and kayak rentals for expanded waterway and fishing access to the Little Calumet River.

"Without the backing of the Town Council, we can’t even think about infrastructure improvements for Hawthorne Park,” said Tilden.

Ennis offered to help the town find additional ways to fund implementation of the recommended projects, however, council president Michele Bollinger said approving the branding was not giving them carte blanche.

Tilden said the Porter downtown can be promoted as having vibrant restaurants and taverns, historic buildings, new public buildings and a railroad junction that draws camera-carrying train buffs.

But the town also could add upgraded sidewalks, historic informational markers and public art displays tied to the Adirondack chairs similar to the colorful Chicago cows exhibit some years ago.

Tilden said Porter needs better wayfinding signage, especially at the South Shore commuter railroad’s Dune Park Station north of U.S. 12. A shuttle between there, downtown Porter and Hawthorne would advance the branding program’s goals.

Porter already has a proposed $30 million Gateway to the Dunes redevelopment initiative in the planning stages for Indiana 49 and U.S. 20 with much of the initial $1.8 million grant being spent on consultant studies.

Tilden said the town’s planning efforts offer possibilities to residents, business owners and potential investors. “Porter has a lot of projects. We think branding is how we sell all of those.”

Councilman Todd Martin said Porter has so much potential for tourism because he sees some similarities with it and Brown County, a popular southern Indiana tourist destination.

It was stated Porter’s brand --- family and recreation --- includes both a great place to bring one’s family and a great place to raise one’s family.



Posted 11/10/2010