More than 500 turned out to Miller ecotourism festival

Kayakers paddle across the lagoon at Gary’s Miller Spotlight's inaugural Outdoor Adaptive Escapade.

Miller's first ecotourism festival drew more than 500 visitors to Gary's lakefront neighborhood.

The volunteer Miller Spotlight Group staged its inaugural Outdoor Adaptive Escapade Saturday to promote activities in the neighborhood like kayaking, paddle boarding, bicycling and archery. It highlighted trails and other recreational amenities, such as Miller's new Zipster bike-sharing program.

"It celebrated all abilities and showcased the many hidden recreational gems that the Miller area in Gary, and neighboring communities, have to offer," said Jessica Renslow, the director of Miller Spotlight. "OAE featured adaptive vehicles and equipment that enabled individuals with limited mobility to access roads, trails, dunes and beaches to participate in activities of all types of terrains and in all kinds of weather."

The event is part of an ongoing effort to lure more visitors to the Miller neighborhood that's included an overhaul of Marquette Park, the addition of historic sculptures outside the Marquette Park Pavilion and an assortment of commissioned graffiti murals throughout the neighborhood.

A craft brewery and several restaurants and boutiques have opened along Lake Street in downtown Miller in recent years.

Adaptive Adventures, Northwest Paddling Association, Barrier Free Beach 2020, City of Gary Parks & Recreation, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, National Park Services, Save the Dunes, Causes for Change and the Legacy Foundation Neighborhood Spotlight Groups helped stage the free event, which is expected to become an annual event.

"The purpose of this annual event is to showcase that aging and disability impact everyone," Renslow said. "One in three households in the USA is home to a person with a varying ability."

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Business reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.