Dunes State Park project finally sees ‘daylight’
By Amy Lavalley Post-Tribune correspondent June 13, 2012 3:30PM
People mingle during a dedication for the Daylighting Project at the Indiana Dunes State Park in Chesterton, Ind. Wednesday June 13, 2012. The project revealed the Dunes Creek, previously buried under a parking lot, to the natural sunlight. | Stephanie Dowell~Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 15, 2012 3:25PM
CHESTERTON — Dunes Creek is now seeing the light of day.
Officials from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and the Indiana Dunes State Park on Wednesday touted the second phase of a daylighting project for the creek, a project that started in 2005.
“This project is just amazing to me. We took a primitive arrangement, a pipe running under a parking lot, and turned it into what it should be,” John Davis, deputy director of the DNR, told a large crowd that gathered next to the park’s pavilion along the beach for the project’s ribbon cutting.
Officials celebrated the creek project along with the nearly complete algae wheel wastewater treatment facility, among the first 10 such facilities installed in the country.
The new technology, developed in Indiana, uses 75 percent less energy to operate than the previous plant, generates far less solid waste, and releases negligible levels of carbon dioxide, Dale Gick, director of the DNR’s division of engineering, said.
“It’s not done yet but I think it will be a great improvement,” he said.
Much of the ceremony’s emphasis, though, was on the creek. The project started in 2005, with the removal of a 150-car auxiliary lot that revealed 825 feet of the creek. The creek was restored and wetlands planted nearby.
The heavy rains of September 2008 provided the impetus for the second phase of the project, after a 20,000-square-foot section of the parking lot collapsed and officials decided to daylight the remaining 700 feet of Dunes Creek.
“It was an opportunity for us to finish a project we started before,” Gick said, adding the project increased flood control, expanded pedestrian access, restored a natural habitat and improved aesthetics.
The second phase of the project was funded by a $1.4 million federal grant, and additional money from the DNR, the Indiana Department of Transportation, and the Federal Emergency Management Administration.
The project resulted in fewer parking spaces for beachgoers, and a renovation of the campground in recent years also reduced the number of campsites, but visits to the park are up, officials said, particularly mid-week, because less crowding provides a better park experience.
“We increased revenue — real revenue — because customer service is what we’re trying to offer here,” Davis said.
The next projects up for the park are negotiations for turning the pavilion into a banquet facility, which begin Thursday, and building a bird-watching tower, scheduled for completion by fall.