Indiana Dunes
Administrative History
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Unestablished, not yet announced and lacking development, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore nevertheless joins the National Park System during the Summer of 1969.

Darwin E. Williams, Management Assistant attached to the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore Land Acquisition Office, comments on West Beach activities in July 1969. [1]

The First Summer Visitor Season, 1969

One of the goals for the Great Lakes Area Office in 1969 was to work for the establishment of a National Park Service administrative office and sufficient visitor services personnel at Indiana Dunes. Other goals included efforts to encourage state and local officials to donate their respective lands within the national lakeshore, to obtain concurrence by political subdivisions with the Secretary's zoning standards, and to secure an agreement with the Indiana Highway Department for the rerouting of Highway 12. [2] With the retirement of Associate Regional Director Allen T. Edmunds in early 1969, the goals were carried on by Assistant to the Regional Director (a new title) Bruce J. Miller.*

*From his summer home near Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Edmunds remained in a voluntary advisory capacity on Great Lakes area issues to the Regional Directors of the Northeast and, after 1973, Midwest Regions. He provided valuable support to J. R. Whitehouse during the early years of Whitehouse's superintendency. See James R. Whitehouse, former Superintendent, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, interview, 11 March 1987, Orlando, Florida, transcript, Midwest Regional Office.

Following the lakeshore's acquisition of the West Beach unit, problems with trespass on the yet—to—be—opened public lands were prevalent. Numerous complaints from Ogden Dunes residents resulted in the Park Service contracting with the Portage Police Department to patrol the area. An abandoned car and other debris were scattered over West Beach. Indiscriminate off—road vehicle (ORV) use destroyed one imposing dune during a two—year period. The dune buggies would spin their wheels going up the dunes, thereby loosening all the vegetation and undermining the dune's stability. The lack of Service personnel was alleviated for at least a portion of the year when a small staff of seasonal park rangers were selected for the summer of 1969, the first visiting season. Darwin E. Williams, from the San Francisco Planning and Service Center's Office of Land and Water Rights, transferred to Indiana Dunes to supervise the seasonal park ranger staff. Williams, who served as Management Assistant attached to the Land Acquisition Office, provided administrative support which allowed the regular staff to focus its efforts on the land acquisition program. [3]

The first uniformed seasonal rangers at Indiana Dunes were Phillip G. Lawson, Joseph E. Matthews III, Charles S. Metzcus, Jr., and John E. Nelson. With rangers patrolling West Beach, public use increased, particularly on weekends and holidays. Visitation ranged from as few as twenty during the week to more than two thousand on sultry weekend afternoons. [4]

The small seasonal staff performed admirably despite its collective inexperience and lack of equipment. East Lansing's Bruce Miller met with the staff at the conclusion of the season to discuss problems to be addressed before the 1970 season. First, signs were needed in West Beach to mark the lakeshore boundaries clearly. Second, beach access for emergency and service vehicles was difficult for they had to cross two private tracts, the owners of which were hostile toward the lakeshore. Third, a small trailer was needed to serve as a visitor contact station as well as a central operating office for the rangers. Fourth, portable outhouses and a drinking fountain were needed. Fifth, markers restricting boats from swimming areas were required to minimize safety hazards as well as to delineate boat landing areas on the beach. Sixth, the presence of lifeguards during heavy use periods would also facilitate good safety habits. Seventh, drinking of beer and running of dogs on the beach created problems for which management decisions were required. Eighth, seasonal training programs were needed in first aid, rescue work, and fire fighting. Ninth, mechanization of beach cleaning tasks would improve staff efficiency and productivity, freeing the rangers from countless hours of shoveling, raking, and hauling away dead fish and other lake debris. Miller concluded his report:

We managed to get through last year's operation on a shoestring with a skeleton crew and no big flareups to cause us any embarrassment. Next year we might not be so lucky. Many management policies need to be established this winter. We cannot afford to wait until next June or July. We will have to contemplate special regulations for dunebuggies, indiscriminate shooting, archery, horse use, boating controls, picnicking, sanitary rules, and law enforcement problems. It is an overwhelming task ahead of us.

Our beach is the focal point of our public relations for the entire Lakeshore at this time. How we perform and how successful we are will result in either the support or the opposition of a multitude of people.

I believe we face a major challenge. We can meet it head on given the support we request with the foresight to see that our old yardsticks for management do not apply to this new concept area. [5]

In November 1969, Regional Director Lemuel Garrison approved the lakeshore's third Master Plan. Superceding similar reports approved in October 1967 and 1968, the 1969 Master Plan also provided basic background information and preliminary development proposals. A fundamental flaw with all three of these early reports was an absence of a firm database upon which to justify responsible development and resources management decisions. There was a lack of congruity in the planning process as each Master Plan effort was led by a different team leader. Collectively, the Master Plans present an interesting glimpse into how park managers and planners identified and attempted to resolve the complex challenges of the Indiana Dunes. [6]

Land Acquisition

Another problem area recommended for change in 1969 involved the National Park Service booklet "Questions & Answers." In August 1969, Bruce Miller instructed the Land Acquisition Office staff to revise the booklet in order to alleviate the great difficulties the negotiators and appraisers encountered with property owners. A comprehensive, yet unambiguous, text would help shorten or eliminate the lengthy negotiation sessions. With the input from the Indiana Dunes staff, the Service made the new publication available by fall. [7]

Testifying before the House Interior Committee in January 1969, Director George Hartzog reported that the fiscal land acquisition program "will be completed at or under the authorized ceilings." [8] By the end of the year, 766 ownerships representing a total of $16,743,000 had been settled by the local office. [9] Bruce Miller reported to Philadelphia: "The land acquisition staff is to be congratulated for the progress it has made. As more tracts are purchased the opposition slowly decreases its activities. We now have an opportunity to commence work on developing a viable national recreation area." [10]

For those property owners not electing to receive terms of use and occupancy, Management Assistant Williams undertook a vigorous program of building removal or demolition. He lumped structures of modest value with more attractive homes to attract bidders. Williams launched a "one—man P.R. campaign" to promote the disposal program. [11]

While land acquisition steadily progressed through 1970, an improved working relationship evolved with the State of Indiana. In March, George Palmer and Bruce Miller met in Indianapolis with Department of Natural Resources Director John Lloyd. Lloyd agreed that the Service should quietly proceed with appraisal and purchase of lands the State had earmarked for the Dunes State Park expansion. Lloyd admitted that Indiana simply did not have the funds to expand its park. He agreed that preservation of the delicate dunes ecosystem was more important than jurisdictional concerns. [12]

By October 1970, the land acquisition staff reached a peak of twenty-four employees. [13] Most were clerical workers processing the avalanche of paperwork. In mid—1970, Frank Ucman replaced James Sewell as Land Acquisition Officer. In early 1971, Ucman began reducing the non—seasonal office staff to only seven employees [14] because of the success of the program. Director Hartzog informed Congress that all of the authorized $27,900,000 had been allocated through Fiscal Year 1971, but an additional four million dollars would be needed:

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, together with Assateague [Island National Seashore] presents probably the most difficult area to estimate any potential deficit. As of August, we were projecting a total cost of $27,180,226 against a ceiling of $27,900,000. However, since then some of the [condemnation] cases tried have resulted in awards exceeding that set aside by some 495 percent. Whether this adversity will continue or not is most difficult to say since each enclave there represents a completely different situation. Based on the current adversity of awards and exposure to condemnation, the additional ceiling requirements might conceivably be as much as $4 million. [15]

An important move by President Richard M. Nixon on January 2, 1971, affected land acquisition throughout the National Park System. President Nixon's signature on the "Uniform Relocation Assistance and Land Acquisition Policy Act of 1970" (or P.L. 91—646) provided for uniform and equitable treatment of persons displaced from their homes, businesses, or farms by a Federal or Federally-assisted program. The act provided for similarly impacted property owners through uniform and equitable land acquisition policies. At Indiana Dunes, sale offers increased as word of the Federal payment of moving and other related expenses became known. Out—of—court settlements of condemnation actions also rose. On February 5, 1971, to ensure adequate funds were available, Frank Ucman curtailed the volume of negotiations. By mid—1971, the program was eighty—five percent complete and scheduled to conclude within approximately one year. [16]

J. R. Whitehouse Arrives

In May 1970, Northeast Region's Associate Regional Director George A. Palmer came to the lakeshore to confer with the Save the Dunes Council. Palmer, Bruce Miller, and Darwin Williams toured the park with Sylvia Troy and Charlotte Read (wife of the Council's Engineering Chairman Herbert Read) to discuss areas of concern. With evidence of illegal sand—mining, Service officials agreed to initiate declarations of taking.* When Sylvia Troy complained about lack of positive action on lakeshore erosion, Palmer reminded her of his efforts to secure a three—year study by the Corps of Engineers. The Council members also asked the Park Service to suggest alternate sites to the Northern Indiana Public Service Company (NIPSCO) in its plan to construct a nuclear power plant near the Bailly Unit. Finally, the Council asked for a prompt Lakeshore dedication ceremony. [17]

*Perhaps in an effort to speed the legal process, a month later the Save the Dunes Council complained to the press about the sand—mining and was harshly critical of the National Park Service. See Bruce Ingersoll, "Officials 'Slow to Act': Charge Dunes Mined Under U.S. Aides' Nose," Chicago Sun—Times (20 June 1970), newsclipping folder—(June 1970), Visitor Center Library.

Lakeshore dedication was also on the minds of many others during the summer of 1970. Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Interior Charles H. Meacham responded to the inquiries by restating the Department's position. Sufficient lands for a manageable unit existed only at West Beach, but development funds for construction had yet to be appropriated. The park lacked an administrative staff, including a superintendent. To dedicate the lakeshore without proper funding, facilities, or proper supervision, Meacham asserted, would multiply management problems rather than promote development. [18]

Funding for management positions finally became available after July 1, 1970. The same month, Management Assistant Darwin Williams and Land Acquisition Officer James Sewell transferred to other positions to make way for the incoming permanent park staff. During this interim period, Maintenance Supervisor Howard Culp oversaw daily maintenance needs and assumed custody of land records (until Frank Ucman entered on duty). In the absence of a superintendent, Chief Park Ranger (Interpretation and Resource Management) Rodney Royce performed daily management tasks. The Great Lakes Area Office, now composed of Assistant to the Regional Director James R. Whitehouse and Management Assistant Darwin Williams, continued to exercise responsibility for the overall management of the national lakeshore. [19]

Four years of waiting for a superintendent came to an end on October 9, 1970, with the appointment of James R. Whitehouse to the position. Indiana Dunes was Whitehouse's first superintendency. [20]

Whitehouse, 46, began his Park Service career as a seasonal ranger at Mammoth Cave National Park. His first permanent position was as a historical aide at Abraham Lincoln Birthplace (Kentucky) with subsequent duty stations in the ranger classification at Petrified Forest (Arizona), Everglades (Florida), and Great Smoky Mountains (Tennessee) national parks. Following several periods of non—Park Service employment, he served as assistant deputy director of the Job Corps as well as director of a Job Corps Camp, both of which contributed to his Park Service career. Whitehouse replaced Bruce Miller in the Great Lakes Area Office following assignments in the Washington and Northeast Regional Offices. [21] Whitehouse was known and respected by Palmer, Garrison, and Hartzog. Because he already served as the unofficial "Acting Superintendent" from the East Lansing Office, Whitehouse seemed to be an ideal choice. [22]

His new assignment coincided with the closing of the Great Lakes Area Field Office in East Lansing on November 1, 1970, and the subsequent opening of a similar facility in Chicago on May 30, 1971. As the largest city in the region and, therefore, a transportation and communications hub, Chicago represented a more convenient site from which to serve the needs of the developing Great Lakes parks. Robert Chandler served as Assistant to the Regional Director and supervised the Chicago Field Office. [23]

The permanent national lakeshore management staff at the end of 1970 included Superintendent J. R. Whitehouse, Secretary Linda Crakes, Chief Park Ranger Rodney D. Royce, Park Ranger Stanley Lock, Secretary Patricia A. Crook, and Maintenance Supervisor Howard L. Culp. [24] In January 1971, the combined administrative and land acquisition offices moved to the former Presbyterian Church of the Dunes, at Highway 12 and East State Park (or Kemil) Road near Furnessville. The expansive, multi—level structure was ideal for conversion into office space for park headquarters and visitor center. [25]

Some of Whitehouse's proposed modifications met stiff resistance by Northeast Region employees* who felt the actions, installing an audio—visual program in the sanctuary and removing rear pews for an exhibit area, would be akin to desecrating a religious site. The opposition terminated following Whitehouse's appeal to Deputy Regional Director George Palmer. [26]

*Another dispute involved the lakeshore's first set of office furniture which came from the defunct Great Lakes Area Office. When Regional Director Hank Schmidt asked Indiana Dunes to relinquish its only furniture to the new Chicago Field Office six months later, Whitehouse refused. Deputy Regional Director George Palmer came to the rescue and made other accommodations for the Chicago staff. See Whitehouse interview, 11 March 1987.

On March 30, 1971, Whitehouse announced a five—year development plan for the lakeshore costing $5,729,000. Warning that the plan could possibly be delayed by Congressional appropriations or Park Service priorities, Whitehouse outlined proposals for West Beach, Tremont day use, and the Bailly Homestead. He predicted planning would begin in mid—1972 with construction the following year and extending through 1976. Proposed facilities for West Beach in fiscal 1974 included a bathhouse, an interpretive center, picnic sites, lifeguard posts, an entrance station, roads, trails, utilities, and parking areas. For fiscal 1975, West Beach would also have under construction a maintenance structure, comfort stations, dune playfields, marsh observation platforms, group day use facilities, an amphitheater, and additional roads, trails, and parking. [27]

In February 1971, Northeast Regional Director Henry G. ("Hank") Schmidt approved the first Interpretive Prospectus for Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Prepared by the Eastern Service Center's Office of Environmental Planning and Design with input from Superintendent Whitehouse, the document defined "appropriate interpretive themes and techniques for areas requiring immediate development. Such developments will be experimental, flexible, and temporary in nature to allow for maximum adaptability as the park discovers itself and its clientele. Long—range interpretive developments are discussed conceptually pending research and visitor use data, both of which will require time and experience." [28] The Prospectus proposed the introduction of a "flexible structure" with a geodesic dome at West Beach which was floorless with movable side panels to ensure easy mobility. It could serve as a demonstration area, naturalist talk center, display center, meeting room, or focal point for beach activities. Boardwalks could traverse the area to connect to parking areas and trails to inter—dunal ponds. A boat to take small groups out into Lake Michigan would not only aid the interpretation of the dune phenomenon, but could also transport visitors to nearby industrial areas in order to see "industry at work."

While recognizing the lakeshore's authorized goal to protect the dunes from adverse human use, the 1971 Interpretive Prospectus proposed establishing an area in the central unit to provide "play sand dunes" in an area already ruined by sand mining: "The excitment of the dunes challenges one to climb up, fall down, race up, chase down, be surrounded by mountains in miniature to conquer." [29] Frequent maintenance would be required to reform the man—made dunes. Looking back to when historical pageants were held in the dunes, the authors proposed a dune amphitheater featuring a wooden deck to serve activities ranging from talks, demonstrations, dance, plays, and art shows.

As for the Bailly Homestead, lack of research precluded attempts at defining interpretive needs there. No one knew if any of the structures onsite were historically legitimate and if they could be restored. Future possibilities included a functioning trading post and chapel, headquarters for a guided historical canoe trip on the nearby Little Calumet River, and a demonstration farm operating in conjunction with the Bailly Homestead. On the later proposal, a joint interpretive center and parking facility could serve both areas, presented as examples of frontier life.

The Prospectus recognized that in order to get the communities in the region involved in the lakeshore, an extensive interpretive outreach program was vital. It would not be a simple task as the report warned:

The park staff may well not understand the culture life style [sic] and subsequent behavior of these people. The culture of urban industrial life is also a type of ethnicity not easily understood. There is much to comprehend: identity, territoriality, competition, distrust, and sensitivity—to cite a few themes. Exposure to similar backgrounds and social groups is best gained by adding staff who have had such exposure. Training of park staff not thusly enlightened is also warranted. It should include preparation not only in being understanding and exposed, but also preparation to teach understanding and to expose visitors to everthing the park has to offer, overtly and covertly. [30]

Finally, the 1971 report cited numerous studies which needed to be made before permanent interpretive initiatives could be adopted. They ranged from environmental studies of Long Lake and Cowles and Pinhook Bogs, to historic structures reports, to archeological surveys. In addition, staffing should include the following disciplines: urban programs coordinator, community relations specialist, environmental education specialist, interpreters and urban rangers (with communications skills tuned towards inner—city and minority groups), and lifeguards. The Prospectus urged that recruiting take place in Gary, Michigan City, and East Chicago and that the staff adequately represent blacks and other ethnic minorities. [31]

In addition to formulating plans, the spring of 1971 proved to be a busy time for the small lakeshore staff. Chief Ranger Rodney Royce negotiated with surrounding towns to provide fire suppression services to Federal lands. Volunteer forces in Porter, Beverly Shores, Ogden Dunes, and Dune Acres provided fire suppression services as did the city department in Chesterton. Michigan City, however, declined to participate. The fire departments simply submitted invoices stipulating manpower and equipment costs for an hourly basis to the national lakeshore which in turn issued payment to the respective town treasury. The arrangement was temporary until the lakeshore could built up its own fully equipped firefighting force. As for a law enforcement staff, the lakeshore likewise continued to depend on area police departments. During the summer of 1971, however, a seasonal ranger force of twelve (commissioned deputy sheriffs of Porter County) augmented the lakeshore's two rangers, Rodney Royce and Stan Lock. [32]

In late April 1971, a blue—ribbon panel of environmentalists launched a five—day survey of the lakeshore. The fifteen—member team, which included area university experts, Herbert Read of the Save the Dunes Council, and Superintendent Whitehouse, explored all the units of the lakeshore looking for means to utilize the area's beauty without harming the fragile dunes ecosystem. [33]

Historic preservation was foremost in J. R. Whitehouse's priorities when he invited the Advisory Commission to inspect the Bailly Homestead on July 30, 1971. Strewn with debris and occupied by squatters, the land and buildings were in a deplorable condition. To arrest the deterioration, the Advisory Commission recommended an immediate declaration of taking and order of possession. [34]

Since his arrival, Whitehouse closely monitored the Bailly Homestead. Negotiations for acquisition began as early as August 1968, but a confused chain of title and bankruptcy proceedings stalled any progress. With no trial date established, the structure continued to languish, inhabited by six squatters and numerous dogs and goats. Destruction of the historic Bailly Homestead, particularly by fire, was a possibility. Whitehouse, backed by George Palmer, pushed for the Department of the Interior to request the declaration of taking from the Congressional committees. This occurred in the fall of 1971. The move to preserve an important symbol of Hoosier heritage met no opposition, and the Bailly Homestead National Historic Landmark officially became a part of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. [35]

The Bailly Homestead incident marked the development of a close working relationship between Superintendent Whitehouse and the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore Advisory Commission. At each quarterly meeting, Whitehouse and his staff presented detailed status reports on lakeshore operations as well as current controversial issues. Although the Commission had no real authority, it produced three to four resolutions per meeting to send to the Secretary of the Interior. The Department took the recommendations under advisement, but in most cases nothing changed. One of the more successful actions involved early developments at West Beach, in particular the maintenance building. Conservationists strongly opposed the siting of the facility and exerted pressure to stop it. After the foundations were poured, their efforts succeeded. Whitehouse submitted the plans to the Commission which evaluated the suspended project and recommended in favor of Park Service plans. The Commission proved to be a valuable partner. According to Whitehouse:

The way the Advisory Commission helped us, helped Indiana Dunes and me in particular, is that they helped to modify and soften the opposition to the park because they were people that were respected by the opponents of the park. They helped me as much in P[ublic] R[elations] as anybody, anyone that I dealt with. They gave balance, where if it hadn't been for them the environmentalists would have really tipped the scales. [36]

Funding for West Beach development became a reality in 1971 because of the efforts of Congressman Roush in arranging a June trip to the dunes for Interior Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Julia Butler Hansen. In February, Roush met with J. R. Whitehouse in the Superintendent's home (along with Save the Dunes Council members Sylvia Troy and Charlotte and Herbert Read) where they strategized three hours on how to secure the funding. Providing an inspiring tour for the Congresswoman, Whitehouse was amazed when his original request for $1.2 million actually mushroomed to $2.1 million. [37]

During these early years of his superintendency, Whitehouse fully realized the difficult challenges his position entailed. In the words of Associate Regional Director George Palmer, the local Service representative was constantly "walking the tightrope between the political antagonists around Indiana Dunes." One example involved attendance at various local dinner and social meetings. Attending environmental sessions angered business interests and vice versa. Nevertheless, one of Whitehouse's responsibilities was to go to public meetings and elaborate on National Park Service policy when called upon to do so. As Palmer conceded, "Jim is in a very difficult community situation." [38]

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Last Updated: 07-Oct-2003