Indiana Dunes
Administrative History
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To this day, I'll always feel that I had a partner at Indiana Dunes who really appreciated what we were all about.

Superintendent J. R. Whitehouse recalling the role of former Assistant Secretary of the Interior Nathaniel P. Reed at Indiana Dunes.

The United States Congress' 1966 authorization of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore represents the culmination of a movement which began in 1916 to establish a "Sand Dunes National Park." It is indeed an honor for this National Park Service historian to compile the first administrative history of this unit of the National Park System because the sand dunes of northwest Indiana were the first new area to be considered by Stephen Tyng Mather, the much revered founder and first director of what has become the nation's principal resource preservation agency. Although the Sand Dunes National Park proposal had Mather's enthusiastic support, national policies as well as world events prevented the addition of the area to the National Park System during Mather's day. The ensuing fifty years spawned an increasingly bitter battle between the forces of conservation and development which did not abate with the November 5, 1966, authorization of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.

Having never visited Indiana, or its beautiful lakeshore extending east from Chicago, prior to initiating this project, my perspective in this administrative history is certainly that of an outsider. Mindful of my employment with the National Park Service, I have endeavored to remain objective in this narrative. I have not refrained from reporting on any of the highly-emotional debates, what one dunes—saver aptly called "the knock—down, drag—out fights," nor have I tried to coverup or explain away the mistakes made by park managers.

There are many stories intertwined in these pages. Each one would make an interesting book on its own. The principal stories are those at the park level and those at the Midwest Region, Washington Office, Departmental, and Congressional levels. On an intersecting and parallel path are the roles of the Advisory Commission, environmentalists (especially the Save the Dunes Council), industry, State and local governments, and a wide assortment of community groups. While there are many ways this history could be presented, my challenge was to select materials from National Park Service archives and files and recount it from a Service perspective. My audience is primarily Service employees, present and future, who need to know why decisions were made and the background of developments.

Two 1983 books have documented the intense battle to establish the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and subsequent controversies: Sacred Sands by J. Ronald Engel and Duel for the Dunes by Kay Franklin and Norma Schaeffer. This work does not duplicate the admirable efforts of these authors. "A Signature of Time and Eternity" builds upon these two books and portrays Indiana Dunes from the Service's perspective by utilizing as many agency sources (written and oral) as possible. It is not expanded to include the history of the Indiana Dunes State Park, an entity within the national lakeshore's authorized boundaries that remains under the State of Indiana's jurisdiction.

I accomplished preliminary research in 1985, with my first visit to the area July 22 to August 2. Upon my initial tour of the national lakeshore, Curator/Historian Marty Marciniak's enlightening commentary proved beneficial to my grasp of the complexity of Indiana Dunes. Upon beginning research, I was absolutely overwhelmed by the quantity of source materials. I have no means to substantiate it, but Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore must rank among the System's "most studied" units. While the volumes of scientific, resource management, and planning documents are impressive, I concentrated on the most significant reports and relied on file materials as basic primary sources. At the time of my research, the national lakeshore had three filing groups: Active Files (1980 to present); Inactive Files (principally the mid to late 1970s to the present); and Stored Files (those deemed unnecessary for operational purposes and stored in an outbuilding at the Bailly Administrative Area). The Superintendent's Management Library and the Visitor Center Library also proved to be excellent archival sources.

Progress on this project halted in 1986 as other Regional research priorities intervened. I resumed research and writing in March 1987, beginning with two enlightening interviews with former Superintendent J. R. Whitehouse and Assistant Secretary of the Interior Nathaniel P. Reed in their delightful Florida retirement homes. Additional oral history interviews were conducted in August with Superintendent Dale Engquist, former member and Chairman of the Indiana Dunes Advisory Commission John Schnurlein, Executive Director of the Save the Dunes Council Charlotte Read, and Save the Dunes Council Engineering Chairman Herbert Read. This latter group is to be congratulated for its fortitude and generosity because when the interview tapes were lost by the airlines in the chaotic aftermath of Chicago's flood (at great anguish to the author), all of the interviewees graciously consented to repeat the process the following month.

Part I contains the early history of the area to 1971, the year preceding establishment of the national lakeshore. Part II contains events from 1972 to 1987 and focuses on the various aspects of National Park Service administration of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. While this history generally presents events chronologically, certain material must be delivered topically to be understood. Similarly, in Part II, each chapter is headed by a section titled "Operations" in which important, albeit mundane, information concerning all principal aspects of Service operations (administration, development, maintenance, interpretation, resources management, planning, law enforcement, etc.) can be discussed before subsequent chapter entries delve into specific—oftentimes controversial—topics.

Many people involved in this project deserve a note of special thanks. Foremost are the interviewees listed above as well as George Palmer, Don Castleberry, and George B. Hartzog, Jr. I am forever indebted to Superintendent's Secretary Ruthanne Slamka, not only for her assistance during my research trips, numerous requests for information, and organizing (twice!) the logistics of the interviews, but for her excellent skills in meticulously recording the minutes of the Indiana Dunes Advisory Commission meetings. Ruthanne's transcripts in and of themselves present an interesting quarterly glimpse into the lakeshore's divisional operations as well as the raging controversies of the day. Other members of Superintendent Engquist's capable staff are also to be commended, including Larry Waldron, Warren Snyder, Marty Marciniak, Kora Krajcir, Betty Rinehart, and Dorothy Gambrill. In the Midwest Regional Office, Secretary Marge Poehling faithfully transcribed the many oral history interview tapes and corrected without complaint the red—inked pages from my merciless editing.

Ron Cockrell
December 30, 1987

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Last Updated: 07-Oct-2003