A new floating water park is slated to open on Whiting's lakeshore Saturday, and it's understandable why the city would be excited for the potential tourism draw of the $300,000 attraction.
The privately owned facility is generating quite a buzz with its promised floating play land on Lake Michigan as well as paddleboarding and other beach and water offerings.
While generating new traffic is the name of the game in any development circles, the new facility also highlights a greater need along our Region's entire recreational lakeshore.
Enhanced parking options — so people seeking to use our lakeshore don't have to turn away — should be at the forefront of all current and long-term beach development planning.
It happens regularly in Northwest Indiana: a family drives, in some cases 30 minutes or more, to a favorite Region beach destination only to find full or distant parking lots.
It's not unusual for a Crown Point family to travel to the national lakeshore's Kemil Beach in Porter County, for instance, only to turn around because the parking lots are full — especially during this peak beach season.
The new Whoa Zone floating water park, near Whiting's Whihala Beach, hopes to take advantage of hot weekend beach traffic that already draws as many as 10,000 to 15,000 people on prime summer weekends.
Park customers will be limited to parking in metered spaces at the beach or the neighboring lakefront park, which costs $3 per hour or $15 per day. But will this existing parking, which already can teem with traffic on busy summer days, be able to sustain the draw of new visitors?
Adequate parking is a problem all along the lakeshore, from beaches and facilities in Lake to LaPorte counties. It can have a real impact on whether visitors choose to frequent our lakeshore.
We've regularly spoken to the real economic engine Northwest Indiana's lakefront represents. Maximizing that benefit begins and ends with adequate parking for Region residents and visitors to enjoy our natural and recreational wonders.