Chesterton Tribune



Porter Town Council likes idea of bicycle rentals at National Lakeshore Visitor Center

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When it comes to bike trails, Duneland has become a pretty plugged-in place, so much so that it’s possible for a bicyclist who knows how to travel from Michigan City to Porter (via the Calumet Trail), then to Chesterton (via the Brickyard Trail), and finally all the way to Hobart (via the Prairie Duneland Trail).

A day may come, moreover, when the ambitious bicyclist will be able to pedal all the way from Lake Michigan at Indiana Dunes State Park to the Kankakee River near Hebron (via the Duneland Kankakee Trail).

Here’s the problem, though. What’s the bikeless out-of-towner to do, who’s passing through by car or, say, by the South Shore, who might like to explore Duneland’s growing network of trails but hasn’t the wheels for it? Or, for that matter, hasn’t an acquaintance with the area.

Mark and Deana Lecy believe they have a solution: a bike rental business--Pedal Power--operating out of a trailer sited in the cul-de-sac at the Dorothy Buell Memorial Visitor Center off Ind. 49. As they told the Porter Town Council at its meeting last week, the folks at Indiana Dunes Tourism--otherwise known as the Porter County Convention, Recreation, and Visitor Commission--have given the enterprise their blessing. They’ve also given the Lecys reason to think that there’s definitely an interest in, if not yet a full-blown demand for, a bike rental business at the Visitor Center.

But before going any further, the Lecys--who between them bring 25 years’ experience in sales and marketing to the table--need to secure a permit from the Town of Porter.

The business basics: Pedal Power would operate from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday though Monday, June through October. The trailer--a self-contained, “completely green” model running on solar power--would be permanently located in the cul-de-sac for the duration of the six-month season. For now, the Lecys would begin with 50 bikes of varying sorts, including hybrids, beach cruisers, and tag-alongs, and rent them on a first-come/first-served basis--or, for parties of eight or more, take reservations--completing transactions and recording waivers on an iPad and holding customers’ credit cards as collateral.

Customers would get not only a bike, however, but also--and this is a key component of the Lecys’ business plan--a customized map of Duneland’s trail network, detailing the safest routes from the Visitor Center through Porter, Chesterton, and beyond, as well as highlighting popular attractions and businesses. The map wouldn’t show all of the roads in Duneland, just the ones integrated with the trail system and likely destinations.

“How do you get to Porter and Chesterton safely from the Visitor Center?” Mark Lecy asked. “There’s a way. It’s not perfect but it can be done. The map will show our customers how to get to the European Market. And to Dog Days for an ice cream cone. To Hawthorne Park. To Bailly and Chellberg at the National Lakeshore. To Indiana Dunes State Park. It’s doable and it’s only going to get better.”

“The map will change ever year,” Lecy added. “And we can cross-market with local businesses.”

Director of Development Michael Barry, for his part, endorsed the Lecys’ plan. “It’s a way to drive traffic from the Visitor Center to Porter,” he said. “That’s a positive thing for the town.

“Sounds like a good plan,” concurred Member Bill Lopez. “Anything that will bring people into town.”

The council accordingly agreed by consensus to encourage the Lecys to proceed with their plans. Their next step: to present proof of insurance and apply for a permit.


Posted 6/1/2016





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