Jeorse Park Beach in East Chicago was closed to the public for almost 10 years. The reasons cited varied from general neglect by those responsible for the beach to unacceptably high E. coli counts, inability to staff lifeguards, and large amounts of rubble and construction debris rendering the area unsafe. There was a permanent sign posted “Beach Closed: No Swimming”. In a recent Gary Post –Tribune article, Jeorse Park was labeled “Northwest Indiana’s Worst Beach”. Now, with recent interest and activism, the beach is again open.
Dozens of workers from the East Chicago Park Department, under the direction of Superintendent Joe Valdez, worked from dawn to dusk with heavy construction equipment removing large rocks and debris from the beach and swimming waters. Their efforts have turned a cluttered, debris-ridden landscape into a clean sandy beach. Already, there are four wooden swings on the beach that have been popular with community senior citizens and romancing couples. Top-of-the-line volleyball nets have also been set up in preparation for an upcoming tournament that has received fifteen team entries. On its opening weekend, August 9, more people flocked to the beach than to the city’s public pools. Needless to say, this is amazing for a beach that has been closed for 10 years. No longer do East Chicago residents need to travel to Whiting or Gary to recreate at a Lake Michigan beach. They have their own.
Save the Dunes Conservation Fund (SDCF) is working with the East Chicago Parks Department to provide a native plant installation at the beach. Over time, these plants will stabilize the sand, reduce maintenance costs, and conserve and exhibit the natural dune environment native to Northwest Indiana.
According to Greg Smith of SDCF, “The proposed native landscaping could provide a whole community of residents with a first-hand example of the natural dune landscape right in their own backyards. Not only will this once neglected beach be open for recreation, but it has great potential for being a valuable educational tool.”
So far the cooperation between SDCF and East Chicago has been encouraging. Lines of communication have also been clarified between East Chicago’s Health Department, which monitors the waters at the beach, and the Parks Department, which owns and maintains the beach. This coordination is critical to providing Jeorse Park beachgoers with prompt and accurate health risk information about swimming in the water.
There is no doubt that if these efforts and cooperation continue, Jeorse Park Beach, despite its past reputation, could become one of Northwest Indiana’s best beaches.