On October 26, Save the Dunes Council honored U.S. Representative Peter J. Visclosky for outstanding service to the cause of preserving and protecting the Indiana Dunes. Visclosky was the Council’s featured speaker at its annual dinner on October 28, and was surprised when presented with the Council’s Paul H. Douglas Award. During his shoreline vision speech,Visclosky reminded the audience of their mission to keep Indiana’s Lake Michigan shoreline open and called for renewed enthusiasm and determination to realize this goal.
Only two days later, Visclosky convened a press conference announcing that five Northwest Indiana mayors entered into a memorandum of understanding in which each of their cities will contribute $8,000 toward a $40,000 local match for a $160,000 Lake Michigan Coastal Grant. The $200,000 will be used to develop a feasibility study based on Visclosky’s vision for the shoreline that he originally proposed 18 years ago. Mayors from East Chicago, Whiting, Hammond, Gary, and Portage are supporting the plan, now called the Marquette Green Way.
The three goals of the plan are 1) to obtain free public access along 75 percent of the Lake Michigan shoreline between the Illinois state line and the east boundary of the city of Portage; 2) to require a minimum setback of 200 feet from the water for new buildings; and 3) to establish a continuous pedestrian and bicycle path along as much of the shoreline as possible.
Considered a wild-eyed idea by many when it was initially introduced, the plan is now considered favorably and quite timely. The steel industry has downsized and can now be productive without using all of its owned land. The unused land is a tax burden as well as a cleanup liability. Acquiring and cleaning up this land will be costly, but as Rep. Visclosky said,“if we do not seek this opportunity today, it will be lost forever.”
Save the Dunes, together with other environmental groups from the region, is anxious to help facilitate implementation of the Marquette Green Way. The goals will take time to achieve, but proponents are excited and motivated to build on the support that the proposal is generating to move the plan forward.