PORTER | Town officials here are expressing opposition to an Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore plan to increase traffic and build parking at Porter Beach.
One of the purposes of the project, according to the environmental assessment presently open for public comment, is better access for emergency vehicles.
A letter submitted Tuesday by two members of the Porter Police Commission argues the increased traffic would put more strain on emergency personnel.
“As members of the Porter Police Commission, we are opposed to any National Lakeshore plan that will increase parking spaces at Porter Beach," members Karen Pisowicz and James Wagner wrote.
The two expressed concerns that, while they are not opposed to opening the beach to additional people, they are opposed to the IDNL doing so at the town's expense.
"Porter does not get compensated for the beach patrol, dive team rescue efforts, traffic management or any other services provided as a result of National Park expansions," they wrote.
The 113-page environmental assessment was developed after a number of workshops and open houses. It has been available online since July 10. Friday is the last day for public comment.
The plan details the need to address a number of problems relating to vehicle and pedestrian circulation, lack of ADA access to the beach and restrooms, no accessible picnic area, inadequately designed parking lots, maintenance and safety issues, and resource damage, according to the document.
It proposes five solutions, ranging from “no action” to the IDNL “preferred alternative” of constructing a 100-vehicle parking lot attached to the existing south parking lot, extending east to Dabbert Drive with an entrance on Wabash Avenue.
Porter Police Chief Jamie Spanier also sent a letter of opposition.
“There is NO capacity available for more vehicle traffic at Porter Beach, any additional traffic will further jeopardize both the safety of visitors and residents alike for ambulance calls, fires, and water rescues," Spanier wrote.
Town Council President Elka Nelson said she supported both the chief and commission in their concerns.
"I am disappointed, although not surprised, that the National Lakeshore, in response to a direct question on plans for additional parking at the site, outright denied that this project included any plans for additional parking at their public scoping meeting. I hope that the next superintendent maintains better credibility with the public and improves collaboration with NPS neighbors,” she said.
"Every comment we receive will be responded to and answers will be in writing during the next level of the plan. We take all concerns very seriously and they will be analyzed. We encourage people to give their comments, both good and bad, since this makes for better policy for everyone," Bruce Rowe, IDNL spokesman, said about the concerns.