"Make no little plans, for they fail to stir the hearts of men — Make big plans, aim high in hope and work," said Daniel Burnham, famous architect and urban planner responsible for creating master plans for Chicago and Washington, D.C.
In 1985, a freshman First District Congressman from Indiana must have been listening, for it was then that Peter Visclosky, D-Merrillville, first proposed the Marquette Greenway Plan on the floor of the U.S. Congress. More than one quarter of a century later, his vision is fast-becoming a reality along the Indiana shore of Lake Michigan.
Visions are just that, and it takes time and perseverance for a vision to become a reality, but seven years ago, in the true spirit of regional cooperation among our governor, congressman, industry and business, as well as state and local elected officials, the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority was created, and the vision for the Marquette Greenway Plan obtained a funding mechanism.
With millions of "regional dollars" now secured and available for construction, communities of Hammond, East Chicago, Gary and Whiting, together with Porter County, jumped into action, and the RDA now has more than $100 million, either spent or committed, to lakefront projects in Northwest Indiana.
Additionally, the RDA has leveraged well over the same amount in non-RDA funds from local communities to make these shoreline improvements a reality (and this does not include the millions of dollars already committed to the Gary/Chicago International Airport expansion, the Little Calumet River Basin, the South Shore Commuter Railroad and the Regional Bus Authority).
Our early spring weather in March prompted a visit to our local Lake Michigan Shoreline projects to see firsthand the Marquette Plan in action. It did not take long to see the beautiful new amphitheater at Hammond's Wolf Lake, the new pavilion in Whiting's Lakefront Park, the start of the Marquette Park project in Gary, the proposed East Chicago Gateway to Lake Michigan project, and the Portage Lakefront Park and Riverwalk at the National Lakeshore — all part of U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky's vision more than 25 years ago to clean up the region's lake shore and create better access for the citizens of, and visitors to, Indiana.
The Marquette Plan signals the start of a new era in Northwest Indiana, one with new job opportunities, and the restoration of one of our most precious assets, the shore line of Lake Michigan. Thanks, Pete, for the wonderful vision.
Dave Ryan is the executive director of the Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce. The opinions expressed are his own. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (219) 931-1000.