The importance of thinking and acting regionally is critical to the future of Northwest Indiana and integral to the management of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. The national park is spread across 32 miles of Northwest Indiana and includes portions of Porter, Lake and LaPorte counties and lands in 13 cities and towns. One-third of Indiana’s shoreline is in the park.
With this regional reach, the National Park Service embodies the value and necessity of partnerships to benefit the National Lakeshore and the region as a whole.
The National Park Service is responsible for law enforcement and fire protection at the park, but the NPS does not act alone. The park has law enforcement and firefighting mutual aid agreements with 17 cities, towns, counties and agencies. This cooperation has been paid off numerous times, including fighting wildfires, drug enforcement, search and rescue, and criminal investigations.
Through a partnership with Indiana Landmarks and energetic individuals, the historical Century of Progress World’s Fair houses and other historical buildings in the park have been restored. The nonprofit Dunes Learning Center Inc. is a vital partner in offering fun and educational experiences to thousands of children every year. The park’s agreement with the Field Station Cooperative Preschool restored park buildings and offers children a unique location for learning.
Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk, one of the most popular sites in the national park, is operated through a partnership with Portage. Through an agreement with Porter, the Porter Brickyard Trail has been completed through the park, and a partnership with Gary will result in the opening of the new Miller Woods Trail in April. The park’s visitor center is a joint operation with Porter County through Indiana Dunes Tourism.
Acting with the Federal Lands Highways division of the U.S Department of Transportation, the park has spent more than $6 million repairing roads owned by Beverly Shores, Gary and Porter.
Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore was selected as the Midwest Pilot Project for the Urban Waters Initiative. More than 30 organizations are joined in this effort to connect communities to regional waterways, working to improve water quality and open more waters to recreation.
Even passengers on trains through the region benefit from a park partnership. The NPS Trails and Rails Program with Amtrak places park volunteers on trains to and from Chicago that pass through the park.
Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore’s partnerships extend beyond the region. The park’s emergency communications center handles the emergency services for Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, St. Croix National Scenic Riverway and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. The park’s firefighters and other emergency services personnel regularly deploy to emergencies throughout the country such as wildfires, the Superstorm Sandy recovery and the gulf oil spill. Globally, the park has partnership agreements with Kampinoski National Park in Poland and the national parks of Costa Rica.
Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore is in and around many communities in Northwest Indiana. The span and dimensions of the park are an opportunity for partnerships and fostering regional collaboration that enhance the park and the region.
Thinking and acting regionally benefits everyone.