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Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore completed a busy summer season on Labor Day with more than 1 million visitors coming to the national park: the top tourism destination in Indiana.
There were no drownings this summer, a success the National Park Service partially attributes to an increased water safety program instituted after the summer of 2008. “While we cannot say that our changes were directly related to the lack of drownings, we did make a number of improvements to our water safety program this year, “said park superintendent Constantine Dillon.
Among the improvements was assigning rangers and volunteers to provide safety information and assistance. Between Memorial Day and Labor Day these rangers and volunteers contacted more than 77, 000 visitors on the beaches and at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore Visitor Center. The lakeshore also posted new shoreline safety signs with a clear message that the waves are dangerous. “Visitors have been reading the signs and asking questions of the roving staff,” stated Chief Ranger Mike Bremer. “We have seen a change in behavior,” continued Bremer, “two weeks ago it was a beautiful day, but there was a strong north wind and most visitors heeded the warnings from signs and rangers and did not to go into the waters of Lake Michigan.”
Other improvements included water safety information in the park’s Singing Sands newspaper and on the park’s website.
The park also conducted a Water Safety Program Analysis in a partnership with the Student Conservation Association. That study was concluded in August and its findings will be used to make additional improvements to the water safety operations.
While Labor Day marks the unofficial end of summer, the swimming season is not over. The warm late summer days lure folks back to the lake. Late summer and fall squalls of Lake Michigan are legendary and extremely dangerous and visitors need to know their own ability. The lifeguards are gone from West Beach which means that visitors have to be even more aware of water conditions and practice water safety including not going into the water alone and staying out of the water when there are white caps to the horizon. An interactive water safety game can be found at the park’s web site at https://www.nps.gov/indu/photosmultimedia/watersafety_challenge. Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore will continue to strive to provide visitors with the information they need to have a safe visit at the Lakeshore.
Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore is one of 391 units of the National Park System ranging form Yellowstone to the Statue of Liberty. Watch the PBS series “America’s Best Idea” premiering on September 26, 2009, to learn more about our national parks. More information can be found at www.nps.gov/INDU.