A new private group has formed to support efforts at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. The park has needed this private support, something other successful national parks enjoy.
The new Dunes National Park Association can bring more resources to the park, supplementing what the National Park Service can do on its own.
One of the association's goals is to restore the former Good Fellow Lodge at the park in time for the park's 50th anniversary in 2016, which is the National Park Service's centennial. That's also Indiana's bicentennial.
This project would cost an estimated $8 million. There's a lot of work to be done.
But it would bring back memories of the days when U.S. Steel's Good Fellow Club sent workers' children there to learn about nature and enjoy the camp's recreational opportunities.
The lodge would be useful for the Indiana Dunes Environmental Learning Center, which uses outlying buildings at the site already.
The association hopes to eventually generate money to help preserve the 1933 Chicago World Fair homes in Beverly Shores as well. The House of Tomorrow, for example, is unoccupied and needs rehab work to preserve it for future generations.
It's important to note that unlike Indiana Dunes State Park, which has a single entrance, the national park doesn't charge an entrance fee. Having little income other than National Park Service funding limits the national park's options. The association will help in that regard.
The association can raise funds and apply for grants for the park, administer funding for which the National Park Service is not eligible and act as the park's advocate with both the public and elected officials.
Initial projects include installing signs designating the Century of Progress Historic Homes District within the park, securing equipment to create a distance learning program and purchasing 500 backpacks for children who will participate in the new Nature in My Neighborhood at the Paul Douglas Center for Environmental Education.
This kind of support is what the park needs so it can continue to improve facilities, including rehabbing the Good Fellow Lodge and the 1933 Chicago World's Fair homes. This group will bring additional dollars to the park facilities and programs, but it also can help bring the attention to this national park that it needs. Doing so will help the park to accomplish its aims of preserving the park's diverse species and history, and bringing visitors to the Indiana Dunes.