Finding a Playground in the Sand
Proponents of a national park in the Indiana Dunes found little support--political, ideological, or financial-- among Indiana state officials and, instead, turned to the federal government to establish a national park and to prevent industrialization in the Dunes. Supporters of the park included U. S. Senator Paul H. Douglas from Illinois and public officials from Chicago and Lake County, Indiana, as well as residents of these urban areas. A local Dunes citizens group, the Save the Dunes Council, formed in 1952 to mobilize grassroots support in Indiana, Illinois, and across the nation.
Statement of Illinois Senator Paul H. Douglas on Behalf of Indiana Dunes Preservations, 1959
In a statement before a U. S. Senate committee considering legislation to establish a national park in the Indiana Dunes, Senator Paul H. Douglas explained why a public official from Illinois had taken the lead in a battle over land use in Indiana. Refuting charges that he was acting on behalf of Illinois steel interests, Douglas called for a multistate regional perspective that addressed the economic, recreational, and aesthetic needs of people living along the entire southwestern shore of Lake Michigan.
U. S. Senator Paul Douglas, Mayor Richard J. Daley, and Mayor George Chacharis at the Indiana Dunes, 1961
In 1961, Paul Douglas led a trip through the Indiana Dunes to generate support for their preservation. Douglas, in the front passenger seat, is accompanied by Mayor Richard J. Daley of Chicago (seated behind Douglas), and Mayor George Chacharis of Gary (holding the sign). Chacharis, along with congressional representatives from the urbanized portions of Lake County, Indiana, was one of the few elected representatives from the state who championed a Dunes park.
Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall, U. S. Senators Alan Bible and Paul Douglas at the Indiana Dunes, 1961
In 1961, U. S. Senator Paul Douglas continued his efforts towards Dunes preservation as he led a delegation of federal and local politicians through the Indiana Dunes, proclaiming their aesthetic beauty and calling on the federal government to address unmet needs of nearby city residents. Douglas found an ally in Secretary of the Interior Steward Udall. Serving during the John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson administrations, Udall spoke of the need to provide all Americans, particularly city residents, with improved access to the nation's vast natural recreational resources. For the significant population living in and around the Midwest's largest metropolis -- far from western and eastern national parks -- the undeveloped duneland of Porter County, Indiana provided such a resource and Udall became a powerful advocate for a national Dunes park.
Save the Dunes Council mailing, 1959
On June 20, 1952, Dunes resident Dorothy Buell led the first meeting of the Save the Dunes Council, an organization of twenty local women interested in expanding the Dunes state park. Through networks of women's clubs and national conservation associations, they found a broad constituency and within a year their membership reached close to two thousand women with members from almost every state. Despite their growing numbers, park opponents dismissed the entirely female Council as a "tea club" of "harmless birdwatchers." By the late 1950s, the Council remained an all-volunteer organization with women in key leadership positions, but the group now welcomed men as members and switched their focus from education to political agitation and organizing. In this 1959 mailing, Council leaders called on members to participate in a lobbying trip to Washington D.C. By 1963, Bethlehem Steel attorney James Chester was describing the Council as a threat to industrial development in the Dunes. Sending a copy of the Council's budget to Congressman J. Edward Roush of Indiana, Chester noted that the $150,000 spent in legal fees and operating expenses revealed that the organization "does not appear to be a 'garden club' activity."
Letter from Carl Sandburg, 1958
As part of their efforts to build national support for a park in the Middle West, members of the Save the Dunes Council appealed to one of the region's most well-known literary artists to lend his name, credibility, and heralded affection for the region to their battle. In this letter to Senator Paul Douglas, Carl Sandburg addressed the aesthetic wonders of the duneland, leaving it to the politicians to articulate arguments regarding the area's recreational attributes.
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