Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore's plan to make the beach more accessible at Wabash Avenue in Porter should go forward. It's in keeping with the Marquette Plan objective of making the Lake Michigan shoreline more accessible to everyone.
The site for these proposed improvements is just west of Indiana Dunes State Park.
The National Park Service is seeking public comment on an environmental assessment of the proposal, which comes in five flavors.
The park's preferred alternative, and ours, would limit parking near the lake during prime summer beach season to visitors with valid disability placards or license plates. Another lot to the south would be expanded to accommodate about 100 vehicles. That south lot would be closed in the off season when it isn't needed, with all visitors using the north lot.
Traffic would be improved through this arrangement. Getting a traffic count for the study was tricky because, as one ranger put it, vehicles were "orbiting" the area while looking for a parking space.
Under the new plan, vehicles would enter the parking area from Wabash Avenue and would be forced onto Wabash Avenue upon leaving, sending them away from the beach when the lot is full.
Complicating this arrangement is the existence of paid parking spaces nearby, operated by the town of Porter and by Johnson Inn, a private residence. Those lots would remain accessible.
Besides, the goal should be to make the beach more accessible, not to restrict parking for maximum revenue.
Making the beach more accessible is why ADA-compliant paths would be built between the parking lot and the beach and picnic shelters, and from the new picnic shelters to the beach.
People with physical disabilities should be able to access the beach freely, and there are few other locations in Indiana where they are able to do so.
The project's environmental impact is minimal, and the visitor experience would improve, according to the draft environmental assessment.
The preferred alternative in this plan, No. 5, has our support and deserves yours.