Encyclopedia ofChicago
Interpretive Digital Essay : Water in Chicago
Essay: People and the Port
Photo Essays:
Solitary Lives
City of Bridges
Chicago Harbors
Essay: Using the Chicago River
Photo Essays:
Goose Island
Indiana Dunes
Essay: Sanitation in Chicago
Photo Essays:
The Sanitary and Ship Canal
Water-Related Epidemics
Essay: Water and Urban Life
Photo Essays:
Houses and Water
Shoreline Development
Growing Up Along Water
Indiana Dunes

Establishing the First National Park in the Middle West: The Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore

In the 1960s, practical arguments about the political and social benefits of recreation facilities in the Chicago metropolitan region, rather than appeals to the beauty and ecological significance of the sand hills and marshes, ultimately persuaded the National Park Service and Congress to prevent complete industrialization of the Dunes. Meanwhile, after decades of frustration, steel industrialists and other business development advocates also were successfully articulating their case for a deep-water port in Porter County. In October 1966, Congress sought to appease both port and park proponents, authorizing appropriations for a harbor while also passing legislation that established the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.

Press Release by U. S. Senator Paul H. Douglas, 1966

Upon learning that the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore had moved one step closer toward authorization, Senator Paul Douglas issued a triumphant, if somewhat cautious, statement to the press.

See also: Environmental Politics; Indiana Dunes; Politics and the Press

View of Bethlehem Steel and Midwest Steel Mills from West Beach of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, 1994

The ongoing battle over land use in the Dunes and congressional action that created both a deep-water industrial port and a national park along the lakeshore resulted in the juxtaposition of steel mills and picnic areas. The proximity of industry and park meant that the area would remain contested, as battles continued over land use, park expansion, and air and water pollution.

See also: Industrial Pollution; Iron and Steel; Lake Michigan; Leisure

Playing in the Sand, 1994

Despite the park's proximity to steel mills and the cooling towers of the Michigan City power plant, the Dunes became a popular destination for urbanites from throughout the interstate region. In a summer 1989 survey of car license plates at the West Beach area of the Dunes National Lakeshore, the National Park Service determined that 59 percent of the visitors were from Chicago and its southern suburbs, 38 percent were from northwestern Indiana, and the remaining 3 percent were from other areas of Illinois, Indiana, and the nation. This study did not take into account those visitors who arrived at the lakeshore via the South Shore commuter rail line. By 1990, approximately 8.5 million people lived within a 90-minute drive of the Dunes National Park.

See Also: Chicago, South Shore & South Bend Railroad Co.; Interurbans; Lake Michigan; Michigan City, IN; Vacation Spots