Mount Baldy study continues as city preps for governor's visit

2013-08-27T18:30:00Z 2013-08-28T00:37:05Z Mount Baldy study continues as city preps for governor's visitStan Maddux Times Staff nwitimes.com
August 27, 2013 6:30 pm  • 

MICHIGAN CITY | Crews using ground sensing equipment were back at  Mount Baldy this week, but it might be several weeks before it's known if any more holes exist beneath the sand.

About a dozen workers from the United States Environmental Protection Agency and National Park Service used conductivity equipment to scan the large sand dune looking for any abnormalities beneath the surface, said Bruce Rowe, a spokesman for the National Park Service.

Rowe said about half of the 42 acres of Mount Baldy were covered on Monday.

Crews are scheduled to go back out with the ground-penetrating equipment on Wednesday to scan, perhaps, the remainder of the acreage, Rowe said.

Mount Baldy remains closed after 6-year-old Nathan Woessner, of Illinois, fell into a hole July 12 and wound up buried underneath 11 feet of sand.

He was found after a more than three hour search, is back in school and on track for a full recovery.

A second hole about 100 yards east of the hole Nathan fell into was discovered two weeks ago by investigators setting up surveying equipment.

Rowe said readings obtained from scanning the entire Mount Baldy area will be taken to a laboratory and be computer analyzed to determine what lies beneath the surface of the dune, like rocks, rotting trees or even more holes.

 "It's anything that's different than what's normally under the surface of the sand dune, which would just be sand," Rowe said.

So far, the leading theory on the July incident is the hole was created by a tree that was buried by the dune, and subsequently rotted, creating a gap beneath the surface.

If there are any suspected anomalies, Rowe said ground penetrating radar equipment producing higher resolution images will be used to try to identify their exact nature.

If something is identified, Rowe said he's not sure if there would be any digging or filling in of the ground.

"I guess it depends on what they seem to think they've identified," said Rowe.

Rowe said Mount Baldy remains closed indefinitely and he was not sure when it might reopen, due to the work that remains to be done to guarantee the park is safe.

"There's no doubt all of the work at Mount Baldy is going to take some weeks yet," said Rowe.

He said those who arrive at the beach only to find Mount Baldy closed are going to other spots along the lakeshore to the west, like nearby Central Avenue Beach and Mount Tom, north of Chesterton, or even further west to West Beach in Portage.

"We've had a lot of disappointed visitors," said Rowe.

He said there's been no loss of revenue because admission to Mount Baldy is free.

Businesses such as hotels and restaurants might be suffering a bit from tourists going elsewhere.

LaPorte County Convention & Visitors Bureau executive director Jack Arnett said he wasn't sure what the closure has meant in terms of lost tourism revenue.

"There has been an impact," said Arnett.

Gov. Mike Pence is scheduled to attend a ceremony at 11 a.m. Wednesday at Michigan City City Hall to recognize everyone involved in the rescue of Nathan Woessner.

A second recognition cerermony is scheduled for 1 p.m. Wednesday at Blue Chip Casino.

Woessner and his family are expected to attend both events, officials said.

 

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