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INDIANAPOLIS — Hoosier lawmakers Tuesday celebrated the establishment of Indiana's first national park by recognizing numerous park, political, community, tourism and other leaders, most from Northwest Indiana, who helped make it happen.

In separate House and Senate ceremonies, representatives and senators took a break from their usual legislative business to applaud — literally — the years of planning, strategizing and politicking that culminated Feb. 15 when the federal government created Indiana Dunes National Park out of the former Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.

"The designation simply confirms what so many of us have known: Indiana Dunes is part of what makes our state so great," said state Rep. Lisa Beck, D-Hebron.

"Whether you’re from Michigan City or Evansville, you have something that no one else in the nation has, and that is one of the most beautiful and diverse shorelines of the United States."

House Concurrent Resolution 32, sponsored by Beck and the entire Region Statehouse delegation, commemorates the ascension of the Indiana Dunes to stand alongside the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone and Yosemite as one of the nation's most special natural sites.

But unlike those remote western parks, Indiana Dunes National Park is easily accessible to a much larger population, and is the only national park served by a commuter rail line, Park Superintendent Paul Labovitz said.

"It's the kind of park that you don't have to plan that once-in-a-lifetime trip to. You can actually go there for lunch," Labovitz told the lawmakers.

"If you haven't been there, come on up."

Labovitz also provided the legislators some of the first "Junior Park Ranger" badges to feature the Indiana Dunes National Park name.

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Statehouse Bureau Chief

Dan is Statehouse Bureau Chief for The Times. Since 2009, he's reported on Indiana government and politics — and how both impact the Region — from the state capital in Indianapolis. He originally is from Orland Park, Ill.