PORTER | The Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore kicked off a yearlong 50th birthday party Thursday night.
But, what one of the key parties in making the national park a reality wants people to know it was a 50-year struggle to get the U.S. Congress to approve the creation of the national park along Lake Michigan's shore.
"I want people to know how much importance the public played. Without public support, it wouldn't have happened," said Charlotte Read, who with her husband, Herb and others, lobbied for the creation of the park through the Save the Dunes Council and other organizations.
Read said the park could be celebrating its 100th birthday in 2016. It was in 1916 the idea of having a Sand Dunes National Park was first bandied about. But with World War I, then World War II and other factors, the idea of that national park died until the 1950s when the Save the Dunes Council, led by Dorothy Buell, along with U.S. Rep. Paul Douglas of Illinois fought to carve a piece of the dunes out and preserve it from the ever-increasing industrial development.
"I'm very pleased it's 50 years and it's still here," Read said, adding that she hopes to see a resurgence in public advocacy during the next 50 years to maintain the park and make it grow when opportunities present themselves.
The park's birthday was celebrated with a dozen cakes provided by various partners of the IDNL and the National Park Service. The 100 or so guests got to taste the cakes and then voted on which they liked best.
They also got to hear a bit about what's in store for the next year. It not only marks the 50th anniversary of the IDNL, but the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, the 100th anniversary of the Indiana State Parks and the 90th anniversary of the Indiana Dunes State Park.
Ranger Kim Swift told the group there will be a myriad of programs celebrating the last 50 and 100 years, focusing on the area's history, accomplishments and the future.
Included will be the Every Kid in a Park Program, which will allow all fourth-graders to earn a pass, good for one year, to any federal park or other federal land. Swift said the pass will also be good for any Indiana state park.
The programs will range from monthly stargazing to a centennial concert, festivals, increased historical programming at Chellberg Farm and a re-creation of the Prairie Clubs dunes pageants of the early 1900s by the present Save the Dunes Council.
A PBS documentary on the dunes, "Shifting Sands," is also scheduled to air this summer.
Ranger Cliff Goins said the IDNL has also teamed with local museums to help tell the story of the Indiana dunes.
Those interested in participating in the various programs can see a complete list at nps.gov/indu