By William Nangle
Have you visited the Lake Michigan shoreline lately? Well, I got to leave my office Tuesday to enjoy the lake at the Portage Lakefront Park and Riverwalk.
What a dazzling day to announce creation of an organization looking to help promote the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.
First, I must declare a conflict. Many months ago I was asked to serve on the board of the newly established Dunes National Park Association, so you can assume correctly that I favor this group's mission.
As outlined by the group's president, David Megremis, the Dunes association will work for the protection, preservation and promotion of the national park. It will work to raise awareness of the park throughout the Midwest.
Its members believe the park is an underused asset. With literally millions of people living within a short drive of the park and its amenities, many drive past on their way to a Michigan shoreline.
On Tuesday morning, with the sun shining bright over the lake, Megremis, park Superintendent Costa Dillon, U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, Portage Mayor Jim Snyder and a host of Northwest Indiana notables learned two years of planning was culminating that day in the birth of the Dunes National Park Association.
The association has some immediate goals -- supplying backpacks to children participating in the Nature in My Neighborhood program, helping to supply equipment for the distance learning program and providing signs designating the Century of Progress Historic Homes District.
Its role is unique in that it can apply for and receive grants that otherwise can't go to a federal agency. It also can solicit donations, something park officials aren't allowed to do.
What it won't do is conflict with other organizations already supporting the park -- Save the Dunes and Shirley Heinze Land Trust.
Megremis and Dillon are quick to note the existing groups have played a vital role, especially regarding environmental conservation.
The Dunes National Park Association, deriving its name from the group of 1917 with the same name that advocated for a national park, has a long wish list of potential projects. They range from restoration of the Good Fellow Lodge to again serve as an overnight facility to establishment of a shuttle system and further developing the visitors center.
Thy would like to see the historical House of Tomorrow restored and U.S. 12 -- the main street of the park -- transferred to the National Park Service.
The 50th anniversary of the dunes park is but a couple of years away, as is the 100th anniversary of the national park system.
The new park partner will play a vital role in assuring the park is recognized for its value and gets the use it deserves.
As for me and my family, there's no question we support the park. You will find us taking in the sun's rays and enjoying the sight of the lovely lake on many a day this summer.
This holiday weekend is an ideal time for you to visit the lake -- our most precious asset.