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Indiana Dunes Environmental Learning Center

Description: After receiving funds to construct a residential education center, the group planning to operate the facility decided not to be involved. A few park friends, who had harbored a 30-year dream for what they called a "Dunes Institute", took up the challenge and became the Indiana Dunes Environmental Learning Center (IDELC), Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.

Geographic area covered: Northwest Indiana, Northeast Illinois (the Chicago Metropolitan area), Southwestern and Central Michigan.

List of Partners and Relationships: Federal partners include: the National Park Service, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and the Great Lakes Research and Education Center. Private Not-For-Profit partners include: Indiana Dunes Environmental Learning Center, Inc.; Richardson Wildlife Sanctuary; Lake County Solid Waste Management District; Chicago Wilderness; Environmental Educators Network of the Southern Lake Michigan Region.

Accomplishments to date: : Designed and constructed the IDELC's cabins (capacity of 80 participants) and a Lodge. Developed curriculum based residential education programs for students in the region. Over 10,000 students have participated in the programs over the last five years.

Key success factors:

  1. Dedicated and committed individuals involved from the very beginning of the project.

  2. Established a full time park education specialist as liaison to the Center.
  3. Obtained political and financial support of the local congressional delegation.
  4. Obtained wide-ased community support and a diverse and dedicated Board of Directors

Frustrations:Developing a reliable fundraising program. Instilling an understanding of the value of the project and partnership along the park staff. Nurturing the changing personnel of the Center and its Board of Directors in a fashion that allowed for evolution and growth of the program. Dealing with the bureaucracy and red tape of the park.

Most important lessons learned to date:

  1. Community involvement is essential and should not be underestimated, particularly within the business community.

  2. It is important to bring in individuals with not only the skills for the current job but the capacity to grow as the partnership and program evolves.
  3. The park must be flexible as the partnership develops and matures.
  4. The education community should be fully involved in curriculum and program development.

What would you do differently next time:: Create more opportunities at the beginning of the partnership for broad scale interaction between park staff and partners.

Suggested resource materials(related to the case study):

For more information:

Name: Dale Engquist
Affiliation: Superintendent, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore
Phone/Fax: 219-926-7561, ext. 410

Partnership category(ies) (check all that apply)

Fundraising _X_; Capital Improvements__; Facility Management _X_; Trails __; Design __; Program Delivery _X_; Visitor Services __; Tenant Organizations __; Concessioners __; Natural Resources Management/Restoration __; Cultural Resources __; Education/Interpretation _X_; Arts __; Information Services __; Transportation __; Mutual Aid __; Fire Management __; Planning __; Tourism __; Community Relations __;

Other ____________________________

Prepared by: Dale Engquist Date posted: 8/6/03
Phone: 219-926-7561, ext. 410

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