Chesterton Tribune

Light pollution DNR trying to put hotel on site once approved for observatory

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Voice of the People

For the last eight years, the Calumet Astronomical Society has conducted public star gazing programs in Dunes State Park east of the beach pavilion. This stretch of beach is the most light pollution free area in northern Lake or Porter counties and is a favorite spot of star gazers.

In particular, this is an outstanding location for the observation of aurora borealis as the sky is completely free of light pollution to the north, the only location in the state for which this is true.

In 2000, Dr. James Seevers of the Adler Planetarium in Chicago did a site analysis of the northwest corner of the park and pronounced it the most suitable site in northwest Indiana for the installation of an astronomical observatory.

The Calumet Astronomical Society, the United Steelworkers of America, and the Friends of the Indiana Dunes spent considerable funds and effort to get the Thomas Conway Observatory installed there.

Unfortunately, after signing an agreement with the Steelworkers accepting donation of the building and committing to bulding its on site foundation, DNR decided it did not have the funds to honor its committment.

This was after its partners in this endeavor had invested over $100,000.

CAS offered to raise the money through private fund raising, provided we could have a long term agreement for operation.

We were told by DNR that they would under no circumstances make any agreement with anyone for more than three years, and that this facility was no longer “a good fit” for Dunes State Park.

Now we learn, that in almost exactly the same place DNR is willing to let some developer build an 87,000 square foot hotel, with an operation lease of an indefinite term.

Clearly this hotel idea is not new, they have been plotting it down state for several years.

Aside from the personal interest I have in this, that construction of this hotel will permanently destroy this site with light pollution.

I have some hard questions to ask of DNR Director Kyle Hupner:

—Since when is the mission of DNR to place private commercial operations above groups such as CAS and the Save the Dunes who seek to preserve nature and educate the public?

—How is it that the developer of this project will be able to recover their investment when DNR has stated they legally cannot enter into any agrement of over three years length?

—Why would anyone in their right mind invest millions to essentially build a resort in a place which is inhospitable 8 months of the year?

—Since Dunes State Park is already one of the most profitable state parks in Indiana, wouldn’t it make more sense to place this investment effort at a site which needs it more?

Christopher B. Brownewell


Calumet Astronomical Society



Posted 4/14/2006