VALPARAISO | You might think that turning 78 years old on Thursday would have slowed down Bill Pauley, but the Valparaiso resident is more passionate than ever about his community and the health of his fellow neighbors.
Pauley, an avid athlete, runs at the dunes every Saturday, and this year alone he expects to complete six triathlons; so when a fellow runner died at the dunes from a heart attack a few years back, he was called to action and began a countywide campaign to bring better emergency access to remote areas.
“There was an incident where a man, Danny Norris, was running at the park and had a cardiac arrest, and his buddy, Ed, went running to the car for his phone, called 911 and wasn’t able to give an address to the Indiana Dunes State Park. Do you know the address to the park? I think only employees know the address, and even still, he was on the trails so the ambulance didn’t know where to go,” says Pauley.
That event led to Pauley finding a way to better access people in need of emergency help, whether on a trail at the dunes, or at locations throughout Porter County. His solution is a simple sign that displays GPS coordinates so responders can get to the correct spot.
Pauley set up a meeting with Indiana Dunes State Park personnel, who liked the idea and, as a result, have erected more than 30 signs at the park, on the trails and at buildings. But Pauley saw this only as the beginning and sought to expand the program.
He since has obtained support and approval from the Porter County Parks, the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore — which is attaching GPS signs to existing signs and adding more in future years to the trails — the Portage City Parks, NICTD — which will put signs on stations in Porter County and at crossings — a portion of the Prairie Duneland Trail, parks in the town of Porter, the Valparaiso City Parks, the Porter County Airport, the Porter County Expo Center, Odgen Dunes, Kouts, Hebron, Burns Harbor, and Union Township.
He is still hoping to get response from officials in Chesterton and community beaches in the Valparaiso Chain of Lakes.
Raymond Joseph, parks planner with Porter County Parks and Recreation, said the county commissioners agreed on Tuesday to fund the project, not to exceed $10,000, which Joseph anticipates will cover all costs and will fund some 600 to 800 signs.
“This is new to the county, and the intent is to give 911 operators an accurate street address or mile marker, to improve efficiency for emergency services. It will enhance public safety and assist the 911 center in locating individuals on remote trails, in more isolated areas and large parks,” said Joseph.
The process will involve municipalities in determining the sites for the signs, Joseph said.
“I have handed out a form to the participating municipalities, they will give me a count of how many signs they are requesting, the county will pay for the signs, the municipality will install them and the county will come out and GPS each sign,” he said.
Another bonus, said Pauley, is that the supplier for the signs is a Valparaiso company. But for Pauley, the project is all about safety.
“I’m retired and I do this because I believe in this. I was a lifeguard at a small lake in Ohio, I taught lifesaving, went to work as a safety engineer for U.S. Steel, and I was the first person to promote the installation of stop signs at railroad crossings in Porter County. I have a lot of history with safety. My whole life has been involved in safety in one form or another. I’ve spent a lot of time on this and I’ve spent a lot of money on this."
Pauley said next on his agenda is campaigning for signs located on streets that intersect trails, both promoting the trails and also displaying that life-saving GPS locator.