Indiana Dunes
Administrative History
NPS Logo


Without [the Beverly Shores Island], or at least without some modification of the boundaries of the park, I don't think the National Lakeshore will ever be able to realize the full recreational potential for the east end of the park.

Superintendent Dale B. Engquist [1]

This study has chronicled twenty years of National Park Service administration of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Twelve of those span the superintendency of James R. Whitehouse. Some have stated that Whitehouse, who had never before superintended any park and did not possess the qualifications of the so—called "National Park Service professional," was given the job at Indiana Dunes because the agency believed the position was merely temporary, that the national lakeshore would never survive. No documentation of this position was found in agency files. To the contrary, Whitehouse proved to be the ideal choice. Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore did survive, and thanks in no small way to Whitehouse's management style, the park is one of the best funded units in the National Park System.

Administratively, there was a big difference from the days when the lakeshore was in the Northeast Region—poorly funded with a one—man over sight—and when it came into the Midwest Region. By 1974, Indiana Dunes was no longer a "project." It began to attract friends in Congress. Certainly for the Omaha Office which had been stripped of its "jewels" (Yellowstone, Grand Teton, and Rocky Mountain national parks, to name a few), Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore represented a great challenge.

Powerful, conservation—minded friends like the Save the Dunes Council and the Porter County Chapter of the Izaak Walton League proved to be invaluable partners. These friends were more than willing to take on the bureaucracy—including the National Park Service itself—in defense of dunes preservation. For park managers, this vigilance came to be taken for granted and utilized as an adjunct management tool. This was especially important concerning Bailly I when the Service did not get into the trenches itself in the legal battle. Although Bailly I drained a lot of time and attention, the long ordeal united the community to the ultimate benefit of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.

West Beach developments remain the recreational focal point of the national lakeshore. The Bailly Homestead and Chellberg Farm represent the historical, cultural center. The Paul H. Douglas Center for Environmental Education is a monument to furthering understanding of the exciting outdoor laboratory Henry Cowles explored almost a century ago. The Tremont visitor center and Bailly Administrative Area both represent excellent examples of adaptive reuse of existing facilities, placing developments in already disturbed areas thereby preserving untouched duneland.

At this writing, Ronald Reagan is in the final year of his presidency. It is perhaps too soon to provide a credible analysis of the impact of the Reagan era on Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Clearly, some gains have been made, but the momentum of growth experienced in the 1970s has slowed considerably in the 1980s. The once dreaded A—76 directive has not seriously impacted park operations. Following the deauthorization scheme orchestrated during the stormy tenure of former Secretary James Watt, the national lakeshore weathered the remainder of the Watt term without ill effect, but found itself mired in an avalanche of paperwork to justify what once was considered routine land acquisition matters. The National Park Service itself has experienced an unprecedented degree of regulation and oversight by the Office of the Secretary.

Acquisition of key lakeshore expansion areas such as the Beverly Shores Island has been in limbo through the Reagan years. Because of this, what looked promising for inclusion—but fell short—in 1976 and 1980, was not even considered in 1986 and now may never again be. Times have changed. The Federal budget deficit threatens to overwhelm the United States' as well as the world's economy. In the "Island," parcels which were once vacant now feature houses. Land values have escalated. A price tag of $50 million will be required if the National Lakeshore is ever going to acquire the "Island" and fully open the five miles of beachfront which is currently inaccessible to most of the public. Without it, as Superintendent Dale Engquist forecasts, the east end of the park will never realize its full potential. The erosion problem has abated, but is not likely to disappear forever. More multi—million—dollar, stop—gap erosion control programs will be lobbied for, but nothing is likely to insure saving Lake Front Drive and the first row of homes from Lake Michigan's relentless surf.

While the 1980 General Management Plan (GMP) provides a good overall blueprint for the future, at its inception it was a flawed document. Planners predicated proposals on the assumption that the Beverly Shores Island would be acquired in 1980. The hastily devised consensus on the West Unit, including the highly controversial access road and marina, has since fallen apart. Upon Superintendent Engquist's recommendation, the arduous GMP process is currently scheduled to be undertaken again by the early 1990s.

According to Save the Dunes Council Executive Director Charlotte Read, future battles at Indiana Dunes will involve dissuading "people with the better idea" for developing despoiled industrial lands which are being reclaimed for recreational purposes. Hotel conference centers, condominium complexes, and gambling casinos are but some of the suggested uses.

There is much unfinished business. Many challenges remain. The Coronado Lodge may one day be transformed into a bed and breakfast or a hostel. Goodfellow Camp awaits funding to arrest its deterioration. The long—discussed "Dunes Parkway" along U.S. Highway 12 may soon become a reality in the East Unit as a scenic road closed to through truck traffic. But what will be done with the many scattered feeder roads and the myriad of utility lines? Planning for the East Unit Transit Center continues as does restoration of at least three historic South Shore Railroad cars with the remainder possibly to be loaned to other transportation museums.

Another future consideration with roots in the past involves the proposed Gary marina. While the facility will not be built, owned, or operated by the Service, the bureau has taken the lead on the environmental impact statement. The Park Service has endorsed the concept of a Gary marina in its General Management Plan, but remains concerned that the development of a marina and access roads to it not adversely effect the resources of the national lakeshore in the Miller Woods environmental study area. The site currently preferred by both the National Park Service and the city for the 600— to 1,200—slip marina is on USX property within their existing landfill breakwater.

Superintendent Dale B. Engquist notes several challenges to be confronted in the future. How will the Service react to various proposed lakeshore expansion measures? An early 1988 report issued by the National Parks and Conservation Association endorsed all of the additions proposed by the Save the Dunes Council. How will the continuous struggle to obtain development funding progress and will the Service continue to seek the middle ground between extreme developmental interests and extreme preservationist interests? Will funding be available to continue the pressing need of upgrading existing facilities from a temporary to permanent status?

Midwest Regional Director Don Castleberry—former Assistant Superintendent at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore—contends that the Great Lakes parks represent "sleeping giants." As fiscal difficulties ease, the visiting public to these large new national lakeshores will demand proper developments such as improved visitor centers, campgrounds, trails, and roads consistent with preservation of the natural and cultural resources. It is an optimistic viewpoint and one which this historian and other friends of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore confidently embrace.

As the National Park Service prepares to enter the 1990s and looks ahead to the 21st century, Indiana's sleeping giant along the south shore of Lake Michigan awaits its opportunity to emerge as the Midwest's premier national park, a remarkable unit which has successfully achieved the stormy balance of preservation versus development and constitutes "a signature of time and eternity." [2]

<<< Previous <<< Contents >>> Next >>>

Last Updated: 07-Oct-2003