The U.S. House passed a bill last year to make Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore the state’s first national park, but the National Park Service doesn’t think it should be one.
If Indiana Dunes were to become a national park, Superintendent Paul Labovitz says the only major change would be the name — and the recognition and promotion that comes with it. Labovitz says the Dunes are already run by the National Park Service and the area has what it takes to be a national park.
“It’s a large landscape in the context of the Midwest. It’s one of the most ecologically diverse places in North America,” he says.
In a Senate subcommittee hearing Wednesday, National Park Service Acting Director P. Daniel Smith disagreed with plans to make Indiana Dunes a national park. In a statement, Smith said the agency prefers areas with lots of resources and large pieces of land or water that can protect them.
Labovitz says that might be how people see national parks, but he doesn’t believe those are requirements.
“The reality is, if you look at places like Cuyahoga Valley National Park and the new Gateway National Park that was the arch in St. Louis, is that there is no convention,” he says.
Smith says the lakeshore name also keeps the Dunes in line with other Great Lakes parks like Sleeping Bear Dunes and Pictured Rocks.
Both U.S. Sens. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) and Todd Young (R-Ind.) are in favor of the national park designation. Though the Park Service disapproves, Congress could still decide to make Indiana Dunes a national park.
Indiana Environmental reporting is supported by the Environmental Resilience Institute, an Indiana University Grand Challenge project developing Indiana-specific projections and informed responses to problems of environmental change.