PORTAGE | Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore's Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk site opened to the public about three years ago.
It didn't take long for the former industrial waste site — now sand dunes and a beach — to become the most visited site in the national park.
The park and the land to the south of it will be the subject of two studies in the next six months. The city's Redevelopment Commission this past week approved contracts with SEH, of Munster, to conduct the studies, totaling $155,000.
Gregg Calpino, of SEH, told the commission the first study will look at the park's maintenance, operations and programming. The city of Portage operates the park through an agreement with the National Park Service, which owns the land.
Calpino said his company will interview people who visit the park and it will host an open house to gather input on the park's future. He said parking has been a problem, so he estimates access will be an important topic.
Mayor James Snyder said 220,000 people are expected this year to visit the park, which encompasses a pavilion and handicapped-accessible fishing pier and includes beach access and trails.
The second study will look at the land south of the park and outside of its boundaries, Calpino said.
That study, he said, will look at access, land use and development guidelines for that property and develop a plan for an overall concept.
In addition, Calpino said, the study will take one idea for future development and advance it by creating a partial design concept. What idea will be developed further, he said, will be determined by the study.
Calpino told the board it is ideal to do both studies at the same time.